No Pacific Paradise

By Richard B. Frank

Initially there were no lights, no mess halls, and no recreation areas on Pavuvu, as well as no adequate supply of fresh food. The menu was officially called "B," which in fact was like a warmed version of "C" rations the minimum sustenance. Bathing was done naked in the open with hopes both lathering and rinsing could be completed before the fickle rains that supplied the shower ended. The island also lacked adequate training space, particularly after firing ranges were established. Maneuvers of units larger than a company inevitably overlapped terrain occupied by some essential function created by the Marines.

Then there were the rats and land crabs. Rodent raiders seemed to mass at night for close-order drill across tent tops. When they became bored, they fell out with squeals to scamper down the sides and ropes. Great ingenuity went to devising means of rat control, from individual traps to on one occasion a mass flamethrower hunt. The rats at least evoked some grudging respect for their nerves and agility; the slimy land crabs provoked nothing but disgust.

"You could almost hear the noise that loneliness made as it came crashing through the grove at sunset," noted the division historian. Anyone who sought solitude at night was recognized as sick. Instead, with rituals that would have filled the notebooks of an eager anthropologist, Marines organized themselves into small groups of friends. The one great shared recreation was an ad hoc movie amphitheater. Hollywood's best and worst enjoyed equally avid attendees. When well-proportioned actresses appeared, the projectionists learned to halt the film and back it up to reshow the scene three and sometime four times.

Veterans retained just one joyful memory of Pavuvu: Comedian Bob Hope made an extraordinary effort to put on a show there for them they never forgot.


See the full Naval Institute guide to The Pacific.



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