FROM: DAVY JONES
TO: COMMANDING OFFICER, USS WEST VIRGINIA
CINCPAC ORDERS WILL NECESSITATE CROSSING THE LINE X
YOUR ATTENTION IS INVITED TO THE ROYAL EDICT WHICH
STATES NO SLIME SEASLUGS SKATES SQUID SCUTS PANSEYS
PULERS PEWKERS PIKERS PANHANDLERS WORMS SAND FLEAS
FISH LICE JELLYFISH SEA LAWYERS OR POLLYWOGS
MAY ENTER THE ROYAL DOMAIN OF NEPTUNUS REX X
On her way to one of the most important missions of the war to day, the Wee Vee's course lay through dangerous waters, through territory controlled by the enemy only a few months previous and well within range of still potent bases. In fact, four an hour during he morning when the initiation was at its height, an unidentified plane was circling on th horizon, snooping on this new menace moving out toward the setting sun. But part of the crew was alert and on watch; our guns were manned and ready to send him plunging into the sea if he dared to come within range. Little did he know with what disrespect we treated his Emperor's henchman. For Captain Wiley had ordered a ceremony unrestrained by the grimmer activity that lay just ahead, an in spite of the handicaps of a ship stripped for action, such an initiation as transpired has seldom if ever been equalled by a ship crossing the line even in peace time.
The ceremonies, outwardly lighthearted, were conducted under the stern realities of this oder: "No man shall leave his watch station to take part in the initiation. No man shall be removed from his watch station either forcefully or voluntarily to take part in the initiation. Each gadget and contrivance used in the initiation will be inspected by either the Executive Officer or the Engineering Officer. No knives or scissors will be permitted under any circumstances. It is reiterated that the initiation is a lot of good clean fun, and unnecessary roughness is absolutely forbidden. We don't want to come out of this thing with a Sick Bay filled to overflowing. Above all, do not relax vigilance in watch standing; you'll get your chance when you are off watch. It is realized there will be difficulty while you are on watch to resist seeing the show put on on he forecastle, but we must be alert every minute. The Nips have never been known to either give or take time out."
The following despatch arrived soon afterwards:
FROM: TASK FORCE COMMANDER
TO: ALL SHIPS PRESENT
ACTION: USS WEST VIRGINIA
ALL SHIPS THIS COMMAND MAKE PROPER PREPARATIONS FOR
THE RECEPTION OF HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY NEPTUNUS REX X
ALL SHIPS IMMEDIATELY ESTABLISH AN ADEQUATE LOOKOUT
WATCH FOR DAVY JONES X DUE TIME SHOULD BE ALLOCATED
TO THE INSTRUCTION OF ALL NOVICES OTHERWISE KNOWN AS
POLLYWOGS WHO ARE APPROACHING THE DREADFUL MYSTERIES
IN ORDER THAT THEIR MINDS SOULS AND BODIES MAY BE
STEELED TO THE ORDEAL THAT AWAITS THEM X
Three or four days in advance of the event there were outward signs of the impending clash. Mysterious apparatus was being rigged and tested under guard on the forecastle. A large salt water "swimming pool," with gismos alongside which had no apparent function other than to flip pollywogs backwards into the tank, was being built, plus a platform, podiums and torture racks. Matters of grave importance between Senior Shellbacks from each division were discussed in dignified meetings on the fantail, and were attacked with streams of water by revolting pollywogs. Officers and men turned up with unique and strictly non-regulation haircuts, and the safest precaution of all was taken by some in shaving their hair completely off.
King Neptune was evidently somewhat alarmed, for though he knew the Shellback aoard were trusty and tested he also knew they were greatly outnumbered, and the following message was received:
-- NEPTUNUS REX --
But the pollywog advantage was only in numbers. The Worthy Shellbacks were able to retain complete controlofthe situation,andon the day preceding the crossing of the line evrything was proceeding according to plan. That morning this message was deciphered:
FROM: NEPTUNUS REX
TO: USS WEST VIRGINIA
TO ALL MY FAITHFUL AND ILLUSTRIOUS SUBJECTS CAPTAIN H V WILEY AND ALL THE ANCIENT SHELLBACKS UNDER HIS COMMAND GREETINGS AND SALUTATION X I WISH TO EXPRESS MY APPRECIATION TO YOU FOR BRINGING
ONCE MORE INTO MY DOMAIN THE GOOD SHIP WEST VIRGINIA X MY JOY IS INTENSE AT THE PROSPECT OF MAKING ROYAL SUBJECTS OUT OF YOUR CARGO OF LANDLUBBERS DRUG STORE COWBOYS TADPOLES AND ALL SUCH SCUM CALLED POLLYWOGS X REST ASSURED THAT OUR METHODS OF TORTURE HAVE PROGRESSED WITH MODERN METHODS OF WARFARE X MY ILLUSTRIOUS EMISSARY ONE DAVY JONES WILL BOARD THE WEST VIRGINIA SOMETIME DURING THIS AFTERNOON AND I EXPECT HIM TO BE ACCORDED A FITTING AND PROPER RECEPTION X I ALSO DIRECT THE SO-CALLED SIMPER SEVENTY-SIX TO BE GIVEN THE ROYAL WORKS DURING THE PROCESS OF CLEANSING WHICH MUST BE APPLIED TO ALL MARINES TO MAKE THEM FIT SUBJECTS OF THE SEA X EVEN SO I FEAR THE LATTER TASK WILL BE NIGH TO IMPOSSIBLE AS NO HORSE BLANKET WAS EVEN FIT TO TAKE TO SEA X THEIR NAMES HAVE BEEN PLACED ON MY BLACK-LIST AND SHALL BE PRESENTED AT THE PROPER TIME X I SHALL BE WAITING AT THE BORDER LINE OF LATITUDES WHEN YOU CROSS THAT WORLD FAMOUS EQUATORIAL LINE AND THEN OFFER MY PERSONAL GREETINGS AND RULE FOR THE DAY OVER THE ROYAL COUNT X
The despatch was promptly followed by:
USS WEST VIRGINIA
C/O DEEP SEA POST OFFICE
REALM OF NEPTUNUS REX
|From:||Senior shellback, USS WEST VIRGINIA|
|To:||Senior Pollywog, USS WEST VIRGINIA|
|Ref:||(a) Despatch from Neptunus Rex, King of the Deep|
|Encl:||(a) Watch List|
1. The USS WEST VIRGINIA is approaching the Kngdom of the Sovereign of the Seas and his emissary of good will may be expected within hail at any time.
2. The correct course has been laid and it is essential that contact be made to avoid incurring the displeasure of the Distinguished Ruler.
3. You will, therefore, maintain a pollywog watch in accordance with the list attached as enclosure (1), to proclaim the arrival of this vessel within hail of that Eminent Navigator Davy Jones, Ambassador Plenipotentiary to Neptunus Rex, King of the Briney Deep.
4. The watches will e stood in a military manner in the places designated. Watch standers without previous military experience will be properly instructed prior to taking over the watch. The prescribed uniform is mandatory. Leaving post of duty without being properly relieved si a serious offense. Reliefs will be prompt and punctilious. This watch takes precedence over all other duties.
5. The importance of your task is emphasized by information that the object of your search is a conch shell boat, so small that it may be easily passed up.
6. Do not miss Davy Jones at the risk of the Royal Displeasure.
H. V. WILEY
The first real overture to the ceremonies was evidenced just after the noon meal, when the band broke out with a concert on the quarterdeck. Nothing unusual about that except that the Chief Bandmaster was conducting in luxurious locks of flowing pink hair. Soon an ensign came pattering up the deck, dressed in simulated diapers, and pitifully begging everyone he met for a bottle opener so he could get to his bottle of coke.
The lieutenant commander Supply Officer mounted a ventilator on the fantail, dressed in rubber boots and a smock over a kapock life preserver, grinding the handle of a gallon ice cream freezer and loudly proclaiming that he was making gedunks for Shellbacks. Further aft on the fantail, ensigns instead of airplanes were being catapulted, with paddles to take the place of powder charges, and a lieutenant from the First Lieutenant's office was dutifully sweeping up Shellback's butts from a deck that normally is scrupulously clean.
Back against a turret housing the 16-inch guns a solitary Ghandiesque jg was piping a clarinet at a coil of rope stiffened by wire, which feinted in the breeze like a fascinated cobra, and the watch was posted in ridiculous attire throughout the ship for Davy Jones and his assistant, Peg Leg, who were to come aboard late that afternoon to pave the way for King Neptune and his Court.
It was a show for the enlisted men, and in this preliminary hazing the pollywog officers were shown no mercy. High on turret three the Casanova of the Junior Officers' Mess was demonstrating the famous technique on a convincing attractive but not too willing siren, and persuasion wasn't abetted by glasses of a foul tasting beverage concocted by the ship's doctor. In fact, as the would-be seducer started to shift his chair around the table, "she" leapt to her feet and screamed: "You make one pass at me and I'll slap the lunch out of you!"
The Assistant Navigator wandered around, taking sights with an amazingly intricate but altogether inadequate array of instruments and charts, proclaiming the distance to Tokio in inches, while an odd-looking character circled the decks and mournfully quacked like a duck.
Then suddenly, amid a fanfare of trumpets, Davy Jones and Peg Leg were seen rising out of the sea on the bow, and the Junior Officer-of-the-Deck hurried down from the bridge to greet them.
J.O.O.D.: "Ahoy, there!"
Davy Jones: "Davy Jones, the royal Envoy of His Royal Majesty Neptunus Rex, and his assistance, Peg Leg."
J.O.O.D.: "Come aboard, Davy Jones and Peg Leg, and follow me to the bridge, where Captain Wiley awaits you."
Captain Wiley: "Welcome aboard, Davy JOnes and Peg Leg."
Davy Jones: "Captain Wiley, I bring you the greetings of His Royal Highness Neptunus Rex, and I bid you welcome once again to the Realm of the Briney Deep. It is a great pleasure to see you once more. When last we met you were commanding a destroyer squadron and we recall with pride the way you and your trusty Shellbacks ave the Japs hell at Makassar Straits, off Bali, and in the Java Sea.
"I am especially glad to come aboard this vessel. I am particularly pleased to find that the Japs did not succeed in keeping the West Virginia out of the fight, and it is good to know she will be in there pitching again to rid the Royal Domain of those dastard Japs.
"It has come to the Royal Ears of my Royal Master that allis not perfect on the West Virginia. Therefore he has ordered me to meet the ship before you enter the Royal Domain and declare His Royal Will.
"Sir, Neptunus Rex and His Royal party will board your ship tomorrow at 0700. I request that the ship break out the Jolly Roger at that time,and all hands prepare to welcome the Royal Party. In the meantime, Captain, I request that the pollywogs be assembled on the forecastle and nearby parts of the ship and listen to the Royal Proclamation and hear the Royal Summons."
J.O.O.D.: "Pass the word for all hands to attend the Royal Proclamation!"
At thispoint the emissaries descended to the platform on the forecastle and read this Proclamation:
Peg Leg then delivered the subpoenas, and the pollywogs, now sensing for the first time the real import of their fate, spent the night in fear and trembling, meditating on such crimes as these which had been uncovered by the royal detectives:
Davy Jones and Peg Leg, having finished their duty for the day, obtained permission from the Captain to leave the ship.
But dawn came all too soon for those whose fate lay in the balance. The following message has been dispatched during the night:
The reply was quick in coming:
At 0705 the Royal Party was sighted on the line, rising up through a haze of mist and seaweed, and the Joolly Roger was broken at the fore as they came aboard. They then proceeded to the quarterdeck to be received with honors. First came King Neptune in his Royal Robes, with the Royal Consort, followed by the Royal Princesses and the Royal Baby. Then came Davy Jones, Peg Leg, the Royal
Navigator, the Royal Judges, Royal Prosecutors,Royal Counsellors, Royal Executioners, Royal Chief of Police and the Royal Cops, the Royal Barbers, the Royal Undertake, Electricians, Torturers, Docs, Cook, Sea Hag, Conchubine and the Royal Polar Bears, plus dozens of strikers to bring up the rear. Captain Wiley descended from the bridge to receive the Distinguished Party in these terms:
Captain Wiley: "Your Imperial Majesty, I welcome you and your court aboard my ship. The United States Navy needs men with strength of will, courage,and ability to learn the Mysteries of the Sea.
"We bring you today, for initiation into the Order of the Shellback, an extraordinarily large group of officers and men, some of age and experience, some young and innocent and new to life at sea.
"We ask that you try them, to test them, with the hope that many will be found worthy of the name Shellback."
Neptunus Rex: "I request permission to take over the ship, Sir."
Captain Wiley: "You have the ship."
Neptunus Rex: "Royal Navigator, take the Conn! Two block the Jolly Roger! Inform the Royal Judges to prepare to open court! Call the candidates to Quarters for inspection!"
These ceremonies completed, the Captain returned to the bridge and, to put it mildly, all hell broke loose. The wild ensuing melee would be impossible to describe in full detail in the short space of a book, for the Royal Party was adequately manned. All that can be attempted is to trace the route taken by each of the nearly two thousand pollywogs. What actually transpired is best left tot he worst possible imaginings of the read.
Each member of the Royal Party carried a wooden paddle, and demonstrated a Royal Technique in using them in the inspection. Grease, lampblack and graphite appeared as if from nowhere, and was soon transferred to faces, arms, backs and -- especially -- hair. As soon as the Royal Party completed its tour of inspection it moved up to the scene of the Royal Court to convert these landlubbers into fit subjects for His Majesty's Great Domain.
Each candidate approached the throne from the starboard side of the forecastle, through a brief but efficient receiving line. Here he was taken into custody by the Royal Cops, and borough to tail before the Royal Judges by the Royal Prosecutors, Counsellors and Executioner.
A careful subsequent examination of the findings of the Court fails to produce a single instance of a pollywog not being found guilty of every count, and more. With resounding raps of their gavels the Royal Judges meted out justice--found each and every pollywog guilty--and sentenced them to "The Works," "The Royal Works" or "The Royal Double Works." Special Friends of the Cops received Extra Special Attention.
From the Court it was but a surprisingly short trip to the excruciating rack of the Royal Torturers, where the candidate's body was paddled into shape, his joints thoroughly examined, and his landlubber's dust dusted off. His tonsils were effectively sprayed before he was permitted to enter into the presence of His Majesty and Royal Consort, and he was allowed but a brief instant to gaze upon the Exotic splendour of the Court, the Beauty of the Royal Princesses, the Enticing Dancing Girls, and the Sultry Royal conchubine.
A selected few were permitted to kiss the chubby stomach of the Royal Baby. Then all were hastened to the Royal Barbers, for most hair was too long and many whiskers needed lathering. The situation was, indeed, so drastic that an unfamiliar and especially viscous type of deep sea lather was required. Fortunately the Royal Barbers had been forehanded enough to see that plenty of grease was available.
Then, head over heels into the pool and the arms of the Royal Polar Bears, who had patently waited shoulder deep in the sacred portion of the Briney, where they faithfully executed their duty in rinsing off the last distasteful vestiges of each pollywog. From there it was out-of-the-pool, for a quick trip down Lover's Lane.
Some pollywogs were so unworthy that they were seen to falter occasionally as they scurried aft on the port side, to be greeted by their Shellback shipmates. This was especially disappointing to some of the Shellbacks and difficult to understand, for no tripping was allowed -- though most of the pollywogs received a stimulating blast of water in the face just as they neared their goal. But all were duly qualified.
As the last new Shellback joined our ranks, King Neptune took the leave, and "clean sweep down, for and aft" was piped. The First Lieutenant buried his face in his hands and wept as all hands went to the showers and the supply of fresh water fell to a new low.
It was not long afterwards, in the Philippines, that the West Virginia met the supreme test. Flying the same colors she had flown when she went to the bottom on December 7, she paved the way for the successful landing of our forces by a precise and terrific shore bombardment. Then, in company with her sister ships, she sank and defeated a considerable portion of the Japanese Fleet.
Neptunus Rex must have been well pleased with the initiation.
[ USS West Virginia Home Page ]
[ USS West Virginia Equator Page ]
Copyright © 2000 The Special Events Company, All Rights Reserved