The troops' mess was a melancholy affair. When the ship rolled, which it did about every eight or ten seconds, any semi-liquid food in the serving kettles, such as stewed tomatoes, would splash over and drift around on the floor. Likewise, trays, like boats broken loose from their moorings, would slide about on the long tables until reaching the end. Then, usually with half-eaten dinners, they would crash to the floor. I really sympathized with the harrassed K.P.'s on that trip. They could not keep the floor clean so long as chow was being served, and the floor was strewn with food, som that had not been eaten, some that already had. Movement over this floor in the conventional way, i.e., erectly and with sure steps, was dismally difficult. The place was in that desperate sort of confusion you might see in a Laurel and Hardy picture or hear depicted in Dukas's "The Sourcerer's Apprentice."
For me, there was always fascination in watching the ocean. I think it was not so much in the varying waves and hues as in the expectation of seeing something different, some abrupt change in the seascape - an unscheduled appearance of land, for instance. I enjoyed the Pacific most when it was the rich, wonderful, almost unbelievable blue which it was so often when I saw it. There seemed to be a total absence of greenness in it - just pure blue.
When we got into warmer waters we began seeing flying fish. They are pretty little things which shoot up out of the water and glide for a remarkable distance. They are an iridescent greenish-blue, and remind one of swallows as they skim over the water. I got a sort of poetical feeling, and thought I ought to do something about it, but after remembering that Kipling had written some rather famous lines about flying fish, I decided that anything I wrote about them might seem trite or superfluous, even if I was nowhere near Mandalay at the time. So I stifled the impulse. The next occasion I had to write verse on a ship was one night on the President Coolidge on the way from Auckland to Suva. On that occasion, the subject happened to be phosphorescence in the water. I shall leave it to someone else to decide whether phosphorescence is as worthy a subject of a poem as are flying fishes, as Kipling calls them.
Read the whole post at my father's warblog, Pacific Memories, along with all the gritty details of life aboard the U.S.S. President Monroe in 1942. His anthology of soldiers' poetry is also posted there.
I've also posted his reminiscence of his mother (Edith Cavannaugh McLintock, a singer originally from Savannah, Georgia) at Urban Renewal, where I'm collecting his poetry and other writing.