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I found this letter to my sister from her husband, 1944





WW2 Marine Diary Lt. V. Terry

Crossing the Equator




Three days away from the equator and then the ships captain and those men who had crossed the equator before, began to plan the festivities of the crossing. All who had crossed the equator were called Shellbacks, All who had not crossed the equator were referred to as dirty, slimy, filthy, Pollywogs. All Shellbacks had to show proof of their having crossed before, and all had a card of the Ancient Order of the Deep. Well, as I said, they planned the festivities and this is the result. Several of us were dress in rubber diver suites, completely zippered and buttoned, and we were made (by means of paddle suggestion) to climb the ladder up to the very top little bridge deck way the hell up in the air, and were given spy-glasses (two rolls of toilet tissue fastened together) with which we scanned the horizon for a sign from Davy Jones as to when the Equator would appear in all its glory and announce the arrival of King Neptune aboard the ship. Needless to say it was a warm job in that equatorial heat and out in the sun all buttoned up in rubber suits, I bet I lost 10 pounds that first afternoon. Well, it was worked like that by shifts for two days, about every ten minutes or so a Shell back would approach from the rear (usually a salty little pfc or corporal on his way back to combat for the second or third time) and question you about some ridiculous matter that would have no answer and as a result he would then paddle the devil out of you, and of course the rubber suit accentuated the sting of the paddle. Other hazing crews of Shellbacks were busy elsewhere, requiring anyone of any Rank to do anything he asked. You could do nothing to please them of course and all were paddled thoroughly during that three days session. The favorite request of the Shellbacks was that you Salaam and say Praise Allah, hurrah for the wonderful Shellbacks, and down with the dirty, slimy, filthy, Pollywogs. On each salaam as you bent forward on your knees they would timely administer a paddle to your fanny. Now these were not schoolgirls wielding the paddle but rollicking adult husky Marines and their heart was in their work, especially when the victim happened to be an officer and the Shellback on enlisted man, boy oh boy, their revenge must have been sweet and complete. Well, this went on for the entire three days, for the most part during our waking hours but it did happen sometime that you were hauled out of the sack and at irregular hours. At last the day came when the lookout announced that Davy Jones had signaled him that the Royal Party and His Royal Highness King Neptune (Neptunis Rex) would board the ship at high noon the next day and for all hands to be ready to receive him. Well the skipper of the ship ordered the Jolly Roger hoisted (the Pirate Flag of skull and crossbones). All Pollywogs were marked with an X on their forehead with gentian violet (a blue medicinal potion which is practically indelible), of course sometimes the brush slipped and one’s entire face got it. Well, at exactly noon the next day the Royal Party came aboard and there were these present (appropriately accorded in regular raiment, carried aboard nearly all ships for just this purpose) King Neptune, beard and all. The Royal Baby (a huge 250 pound Marine with head shaved and all rouged and lip-sticked) the Royal Barber, the Royal Doctors, and of course Davy Jones who dressed as a pirate somewhat like John Silver patch over eye etc. These men were well made-up and looked every bit the part with the exception of the gargantuan Royal Baby. Well the party started by all of us being lined up and awaiting the Royal Barber, while we waited we were one by one bathed with a sea hose which threw a stream of salt water from the sea about 4 inches thick and in order to make the job thorough we were required to back into it on our hands and knees, we were not clothed except for skivvies, and believe me the force of that hose was about like an enema on a large scale. Well after backing into the hose for a distance of about 10 feet we were somewhat surprised to find another hose of the same type playing on our faces, making breathing somewhat of an amphibious or something of operation as the water sometimes seemed to contain some bilge water besides the sea-water, so that initial phase was over we stood back and reveled in the misery of those behind us. Suddenly we were marched to the Barber, who proceeded to cut a runway down the center of our beautiful scalp, and I do mean scalp, he took several nicks out of mine besides the hair. The hair clippings fell into a barrel in which had been put some form of lard and shampoo. So after partially scalping us he proceeded to give us a shampoo, but he must have had poor vision because we didn’t get a shampoo but did get our eyes and mouth full of hair and shampoo and lard. Still sputtering we were taken before King Neptune’s elaborate throne where we were required to salaam many times to the rhythmic beat of the paddle, and then we moved over to worship the Royal Baby. This was the climax of the whole affair, the bouncing Royal Baby presented not her face to be kissed but her buttocks, which were diapered and over all about one inch of mustard was smeared. Well everyone had a natural hesitancy about sticking his face into a smear like that which to all appearances might well be imagined something entirely more unsavory than mustard. The court attendants here took the situation in hand (our heads) and with a decided push accomplished the fact. Thence we were placed upon the Royal Surgeon’s operating table and were asked how much we weighed. Of course everyone weighs one hundred and some pounds, and since nearly all say a hundred fifty six, etc they naturally form the Hun syllable with a kind of openmouthed grunt and at that precise moment the Royal Surgeon (large syringe of foul tasting alumish fluid in hand) squirts your mouth full and oral cavity being in such a wide-open state the stuff invariably caused much spewing and sputtering and in some cases violent nausea with dismaying results. After that none of us cared much what happened and not much more was possible, it didn’t seem. However it was then necessary for us to drink deep of the deep and a bucket was lowered over the side and some nice salt water was pulled aboard and we all were made to drink. Ugh. Well after several other sessions it seemed we were about to become Shellbacks, but no. Blindfolded and roped hand and foot we were dunked over the side, just a quick wetting for some, it wasn’t possible to do a thorough job on so many, thank goodness, then we were asked what the definition of a Shellback was: and then the trouble began. It seems that Pollywogs are allowed to mutiny if they do ii in an orderly manner, and once of the larger and heftier members decided that this was the psychological moment. It was a dismal failure, as the Shellbacks anticipated such an attempt and was well prepared with hoses; it resulted in a washout for us

Papa had posted this again on the site because he wanted to know if this still occurs. So can anyone help him out?

two marines MarineAO said it was gough

sn-e3 said it was scary