Halfway around the world, sailor meets someone from home

Published 11:26 pm Saturday, April 17, 2010

Smith, born and raised in Picayune, has penned a book, “Stories From the Heart” about his childhood in Pearl River County.
This story comes from a book in progress, “Bridges That Just Won’t Burn.” Smith served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
He and his wife, Alice, currently live in Adkins, Texas.

On July 16, 1944 we returned to Pearl Harbor for much needed repairs. We were also fitted with new radar equipment as were the planes. To the best of my knowledge, we were to be the first battleship carrier to be able to now strike at night.
We were in Pearl Harbor until August 4th, but during our 19 days in Pearl Harbor, we could pull liberty every three days.
The first day I was off, all my close buddies were on duty and I was alone on my first day of liberty. To be honest, most of the sailors went down to town were the bars and brothels were.
I had picked up some literature from the Officer of the day and I read where the Dole Pineapple Plantations were offering free tours and a free meal to servicemen. I decided to go and see what it was all about.
I left the ship early after breakfast and walked to the bus stop in order to catch the tour bus. There at the stop was a whole slew of sailors waiting, but when the downtown bus pulled away, there was only two of us left standing there.
As the guy walked up to me I noticed that he was a sailor from Australia. he held out is hand and said, “I’m Anderson, just call me ‘Andy,’ mate.” I told him my name was Edward Smith, but that my buddies called me ‘Smitty.”
We spent the day together on the tour and when it was over, we both knew we had found a friend. We exchanged addresses and I told him I was going to skip my next day of liberty so that I could come ashore with a couple of my buddies and that if he could do the same, we could meet and bum around together.
It worked out fine — Andy, myself, along with Davis and Truman — spent all of our off time those couple of weeks going every place we could on the islands.
But the fun was soon to end. We shipped out on August 5 and then from the 31st of August until the 3rd of September we conducted raids on Bonin Islands — we were moving fast at this point in the war.
During this time, Andy and I were writing to one another and we had met several times during refueling and taking on supplies.
Our crew then got word that we were heading for Sydney, Australia for a four day rest period and to leave the wounded at a hospital. I wrote Andy a letter letting him know, but when we docked in Sydney, I had not yet heard back from him.
As soon we tied up I asked for and received permission to go on the dock and make a phone call. I called his parents home and his mom answered. She told me that Andy was home and that he and his dad were working in the field.
She said, “Smitty, you be at the gate with a paper pinned to your blouse so I can recognize you and I will be there in about an hour or two to pick you up.”
I had to really hustle to get my papers in order so I could get my leave, but I made it and had about 20 minutes to spare. With the help of Davis to cover for me, I had four full days leave.
Soon I spotted a Land Rover coming to the gate moving at a pretty fast clip, when it came to a sudden stop and this huge lady jumped out and bear hugged me, said, “You got to be Smitty!” I told her I was and that I had four days of leave.
“Smitty, I didn’t tell Andy that you were here so it’s going to be a complete surprise for him and his dad,” she said.
We drove through Sydney and out into the countryside. I couldn’t help but notice how well kept the farms were.
We arrived at the Anderson farm just as the sun was going down. Mrs. Anderson told me that she best get me inside the house as soon as possible. “Andy will be here shortly and I want this surprise to work,” she added.
We timed it pretty good, it wasn’t but a few minutes before we heard the horses and wagon coming down the lane toward the barn. Needless to say, when Andy walked in the house and saw me sitting there, he was in total shock.
While we were eating supper, Mr. Anderson asked us what were our plans for the next couple of days.
“Dad,” replied Andy, “Smitty and I would like to spend some time in the Outback, if that’s okay with you.”
Mr. Anderson thought for a moment, then said, sure it was fine. “You will have to use the Land Rover,” he said. “I think we can let enough gas go for you to make the trip.”
He then told us that if we planned on leaving in the morning, we needed to get ready right after dinner.
“If you want to go, you best get ready tonight so you can leave early in the morning or you won’t have enough time,” he said.
As soon as we finished supper, we packed the rover and filled the gas tanks as well as four, five gallon cans.
The next morning, ready to go, we headed downstairs where we met up with Mr. Anderson. He handed Andy two 30-30 rifles, which Andy then positioned in gun racks located between the front seats. We bid everyone good bye and were off on our adventure.
We had to drive to the outskirts of Sydney to catch the road that would lead us to the Outback.
Just a short ways out of town we came up on a corral full of horses. A horse person myself, I asked Andy to stop so I could take a look them.
We walked over to the corral and as I was looking through th fence, I heard a voice coming from the barn. I stood up so fast, that I must have startled Andy for he remarked, “What’s the matter with you mate? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost!”
“Andy,” I said, “I know that voice that’s coming from the barn.”
I ran into that barn with Andy close to my heels and I was right — I knew that voice. Standing there was Jody Smith, brother to my best friend, Todd. Jody explained that he was stationed at the hospital in Sydney and that on his off days he was in business with an Aussie buying and selling horses.
I have often wondered what are the odds of a person traveling halfway around the world and finding someone they knew.
We visited for a while, exchanged addresses and got back on our way.
We went through two large sheep stations, also known as ranches, before they day was over, and just before the sun settled, we entered a cattle station.
We no more had gotten our camp set up next to a windmill when some heavily-armed cowboys rode up on horseback to check us out. The oldest knew Andy and his family, so they visited and had coffee with us, wished us good luck and rode away.
The next day, I noticed how the countryside was changing. Gone was the ranch country as we ventured further into some rough country. Around three in the afternoon, Andy said, “Mate, you are now in the Outback.”
As we were setting up camp, Andy remarked, “With this full moon we should see lots of kangaroo tonight.” He added that kangaroos were common marsupials and that they normally feed at night when the moon is bright in order to avoid the heat of the day.
He was right. We spent over half the night moving around and watching them. He pointed out to me that the males had reddish brown fur and that they had cream-colored bellies. He also added that during breeding season, the males could get pretty aggressive. I had not seen many animals in my life that were marsupial — the only one I could think of back then was the possum.
With our mission complete and my leave coming to an end, we started home the next day.
We were traveling in some pretty flat country when over to my left I spotted standing in the shade of an outcrop of rocks an Aborigine. He was dressed in just a loin cloth held up by a rope tied to his waist. Tucked under the rope was a boomerang.
I chided Andy, “Andy,” I said, “Go in a little closer — I have heard how good they are with a boomerang and I would like to see him use it.”
Andy advised me to wait in the rover. “Smitty, you stay in the rover and let me go close enough for him to hear me and I will see if he is friendly,” said Andy.
With that said, Andy removed one of the rifles from the rack and walked over to the man. Andy began talking to him in Aborigine and then when he was about six feet away from him, turned and motioned for me to join them.
As I came up alongside of Andy, I noticed to the side a woman a little boy squatting down and pinching the heads off of large ants and putting them into a pile.
I looked back at the man and his arms were folded across his chest and he was completely motionless. Flies were crawling in and around his eyes and he still did not move.
I then noticed that the woman and boy were now eating the ants they had piled up. “Andy, get him to throw that stick and let’s get the hell out of here,” I said.
When Andy finished talking to the man, I saw his eyes move just a little while stood erect, and then removing the boomerang, he slung it about 200 feet. he then said something to the boy, who got up and ran to retrieve it. When he picked it up, there with it, dead, was the biggest rat I had ever seen in my life. As we left, I saw the man cutting up the rat and they all started eating the meat raw. Let me say, it was quite a while before I could eat anything.
We spent our last night on the Anderson farm and while we were eating our supper, I thought to myself about how there really is not much difference between Australian country folk and Mississippi country folks.
Andy and I managed to stay in contact with one another for several years after the war, but eventually lost touch.
I’m sad to say, I wish many times we would have stayed in contact all these years.

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