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Volume 6838

Wartime Journals of Correspondent Edgar Rice Burroughs
or Buck Burroughs Rides Again

Written April 1943 ~ Copyright ERB, Inc.
Transcribed for ERBzine by Bill Hillman


Click for full-size collage
Feb 1/2: Trapped Below Deck ~ Watch for Sea Life and Corpses
Harmony in Cramped Quarters
. . . vegetables, plenty of bread and butter, fruit juices, excellent coffee and amazing desserts. The cook was once an assistance chef at Hotel del Coronado. He made wonderful pies.

Feb. 1. General Quarters sounded at 4:15, and the men were kept at battle stations until 5:15. All the water-tight doors and hatches were closed. This hour before sunrise is considered the most likely time for submarine attacks, and similar precautions were taken every morning.

We were accompanied by an old World War I destroyer, the USS McKean. All day long both ships zig-zagged all the way across the Pacific. I was told that this increased the mileage about 10%. The McKean, originally a four stacker, is now a two stacker. She carries four large landing barges, and has been used to land Marines. She landed the first on Guadalcanal.

I took a shower before breakfast. Taking a shower on a rolling, pitching destroyer is an experience, especially when standing on one foot trying to wash the other. Dropping the soap is a catastrophe. One morning I conceived the brilliant idea of taking a shower while everyone else was at battle stations during General Quarters, thus achieving the one thing I missed most -- privacy. It was not a good idea. Right after reveille at 4:00, I went down to the head. That was before I had learned that during General Quarters all water and drains are shut off and all the doors and hatches closed. I couldn't take a shower, nor could I go back up the ladder to my cabin. I faced an hour of being locked up below. But fortunately one of the officers happened to pass through the corridor and saw my predicament. He let me out onto the main deck, and I crawled up a ladder to the forecastle deck where Croft's cabin was located. I was told that the men got a great kick out of it, seeing me parading around on deck in my pajamas.

I  think the Captain has not been feeling so good. I have seen little of him. But many destroyer men are sea sick for a couple of days after having been ashore for some time. I was told of one instance during which half the officers and 70% of the men were sick at the same time.

I spent quite a little time on the bridge, looking for whales, sharks and corpses. It is amazing how little one sees of all myriad life we know to be in the ocean. During that almost 5000 mile voyage, I saw only flying fish, one school of porpoises, and a hammer-head shark. Not a whale nor a corpse. My interest in floating corpses has been almost lifelong. It derives from a story I read many years ago of a voyage on a windjammer way down in the Antarctic in an area practically never travelled by ships, where the narrator saw the body of a man floating. How did it get there? Where had it floated from? The intensely cold water must have preserved it. It may be floating around down there yet. What a life!

Feb. 2. After dinner that afternoon, Lt. Croft took me over the ship. It was very interesting, but some of it too technical for me, especially the engine room, which was hotter than hell. In their quarters, the men are terribly crowded. Tiers of bunks are set close together. The quarters are dark. The men have absolutely no privacy. That they get along as amicably as they do is remarkable. There are occasional fights, but not many. Often people with similar backgrounds and mores get on each others nerves if they are cooped up together even for relatively short periods. And those boys came from all the forty-eight states, and there were some Filipinos and negroes among them. The secret of their remarkable harmony is probably the hard work they have to do and very little . . .


Rare Edgar Rice Burroughs WWII Photos
Col. David Taylor shares eight photos of ERB as a WWII correspondent
from the National Archives in Washington, DC.


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