"Somewhere on a Western Atoll where the sun is like a curse,
And each long day is followed by another slightly worse,
Where the coral dust blows thicker than the desert's shifting sands,
And the white men dream of finer, cooler, cleaner, greener lands.
Somewhere in the West Pacific, where a woman's never seen,
Where the sky is never cloudy and the grass is never green,
Where the gooney birds scream nightly, robbing man of blessed sleep,
Where there isn't any whiskey, just two cans of beer a week.
Somewhere in the blue Pacific, where the mail is always late,
Where Christmas cards in April are considered up to date,
Where we always sign the payroll and never draw a cent,
Where we never miss the money, ' cause there's no place to get it spent.
Somewhere in a Western ocean, where the gooneys moan and cry,
And the lumbering Deep-sea turtles come up on the beach to die,
Oh, take me back to___________ the place I love so well,
For this God-forsaken island is awful close to hell......"
(Written in 1944 by unknown author at Ulithi)
Along with many of you, my Dad spent some time at Ulithi Atoll. Ulithi is part of the Caroline Islands, about 350 miles southwest of Guam; made up of about forty islands. Four of those islands - Falalop, Mogmog, Sorlen and Asor were particularly important. The Japanese held this area for a while during the early part of WWII, but the US forces gradually took it in the fall of 1944, providing air strips, an anchorage where repairs and maintenance could be performed, a bit of R&R in the midst of war and an all important LORAN A station that was operated by the Coast Guard. A few of those airstrips were constructed in less than 30 days!
For those service years and for many years long after, the part that Ulithi played was kept secret. Those Sailors and troops who passed through the area knew how important it was but also knew that old adage "Loose lips sink ships". SeaBees constructed or repaired air strips, housing, a hospital, living quarters for those stationed there, supply depots, a theatre, a church, a water distillation plant, a seaplane ramp, mess halls and galleys (one of which was hit by a kamikaze when my Dad was there), and so much more.
During one period, early in 1945, the islands were a cargo transport area, handling over 20,000 tons of cargo each month.
"Ships of the fighting fleet in Ulithi Atoll. This photograph is commonly known as "Murderers' Row" It is possible that this name was an homage to the 1927 New York Yankees and their four famous sluggers, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri, who were also known by that name.
Foreground to background: USS WASP, USS YORKTOWN, USS HORNET, USS HANCOCK, USS TICONDEROGA, USS LEXINGTON. (NWDNS-80-G-294131)"
The most company the Sailors had while at Ulithi or Yap (another nearby island chain) were the Gooney Birds...
that were so thick a Sailor could step on them if he wasn't careful! Shipmates of my Dad told me that once you had heard them screeching and clucking, you'd never forget it. They didn't keep to the beaches.. they'd come right into the area that was set aside as the local bar - even the Officer's Club!
Were any of you through or at Ulithi during the war?