A Library Burns
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Last February, what seems like eons ago, a weekly blog started with the following:
Year of Anniversaries
2020--Have you noticed that there are some momentous anniversaries this year? The Mayflower landed at Plymouth in 1620--400 years ago! Do you have Mayflower ancestors? Are you planning to attend any Mayflower celebrations?
A bit closer to present day is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment--Women's Suffrage. Did you have an ancestor involved with that struggle for equality?
There are many other anniversaries this year--75 years from the end of World War II, 40 years after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, You can probably name many more and please do!
Opportunity KnocksThere followed a challenge, an opportunity for people to write stories. A few weeks later the world that we knew came to a screeching halt due to Covid 19. Fortunately, we learned how to have virtual meetings and in early April we were "back in business".
Not only has our society survived, we have grown, adding renewals of former members and new friends from all over the country. There must be a wealth of stories out there, just waiting to be shared.
Barbara Mattoon contributed this regarding a story written by her father, "My idea was to use the story as an illustration of why it is important to write things down and preserve them for our descendants. I remember hearing the story as a young girl, but until I transcribed it yesterday, I had forgotten some of the details."
A GIFT FROM KAAKE*
Men in the Seabees were always making things. Quite a lot of us made sheath knives. I made one myself from a fine piece of steel that I acquired during our stop at Pearl Harbor. I had it pretty well roughed into shape when we boarded the attack-transport and sailed for Island “X”.
I finished the knife during the days that we followed the nervous destroyer escort that prowled forth and back ahead of the path we traced across the brassy southern ocean. The dark hardwood handle of the weapon took shape in a design of my own making. Hours of careful polishing brought the blade to a smooth mirror-like finish. Then its edge was honed to the sharpness of a fine razor. An altered G.I. sheath made a good carrier for it and I wore it on my belt with a degree of assurance the night we hit the beach. It felt good against my hip when we spilled out of our landing craft and raced across the white strip of coral sand to the black line of jungle foliage.
There was a peculiarity about that landing. The detachment that I landed with was known as the second wave of our battalion. The first wave, made up of engineers and heavy equipment operators had landed on the heels of the mopping-up marines a week before and had gotten to work without opposition. But the enemy had rallied, made good use of his intelligence, and with fine timing had sent his light bombers down from the Marshall Islands. They caught our detachment fair in the act of going ashore. In quick agony we became acquainted with the Nip’s anti-personnel bombs. Nasty little twenty-five pounders, which we called “Daisy Cutters”, timed to explode just before they hit the ground, scattering flesh-tearing scraps of shrapnel over the immediate area.
One of them burst almost directly over me just as I reached the line of palm trees. I will never know how I slipped through the slashing pattern of death without getting a scratch, but I did, and tumbled into an old bomb crater beside a damaged native hut. I was so utterly and thoroughly frightened that I wonder how I retained consciousness under the extreme stress of the emotion.
Time is measureless to a human in such a circumstance, yet it must have been only a minute or two until a dropping flare lighted the whole area and I found that I was not alone. At the bottom of the depression lay a native woman. She was unconscious, so badly wounded that her life was rapidly flowing away in the blood from a severed artery in the right upper arm. A superficial wound in the temple indicated that some flying object had knocked her out.
Suddenly I was no longer afraid. I remember my mind flashing back to the excellent first aid instructor at training camp. I could hear him repeating, “Pressure point here, and here, and here”, as he indicated their locations. Before the light of the burning flare expired my fingers had found the proper place and the spurting blood had changed to a slow ooze. Then darkness. Here I sat, only minutes off the Higgins boat, on a strange Pacific island, holding a human life in suspense beneath my fingers. What next? . . . .
*KAAKE pronounced as if Kaw-kee.
©Arthur R. Boye 1973
Don't miss the conclusion to this story December 14, 2020!
Once again, here is an invitation for you to contribute your stories, whether written by you or collected from family archives and memories. Submit your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.