Sunday, December 9, 2012
Day Three: Anna's Log
After a breakfast of French toast, bacon, and hardboiled eggs (yes, we are spoiled here!), we set off to the island of Seghe to see its airstrip. Tessa's and my veteran, Dr. Charles Monroe, rode with us in the small metal boats called, "Tinnies." While on the island, I watched Dr. Monroe talk with the natives, "Your people saved my life. If it wasn't for you, I would have died," he'd say, "Thank you. Tell your people I love 'em."
Later, I heard some of the story: Dr. Monroe was an aviation gunner with the U.S. Navy, and he was based out of Guadalcanal. One night, the planes scrambled to get off of the ground so they wouldn't be destroyed by overhead Japanese planes. Dr. Monroe's plane was unable to return to the base because its instruments had been damaged in the fighting, and they couldn't be used to find Guadalcanal again. The pilot, Lt. Divine, tried to land on the water. Since the wheels were down, the plane couldn't land smoothly and flipped over in the water, but the men were able to exit the plane. They swam to nearby Guadalcanal, discovering later that the water was infested with sharks. Once on land, the men found out they were on the Japanese side of the island--they were walking into hostile territory. The next morning, natives found the men, fed them boiled bananas, and directed them back towards the American side of the island. Eventually, Dr. Monroe was able to signal for help to a U.S. destroyer.
This story is just one of the many I have heard straight from Dr. Monroe. I appreciate seeing his gratefulness to the natives. This is his first time returning to the Solomon Islands in seventy years, so for him, this is his first chance to say thank you.
Before leaving the Seghe area, a bunch of us dove in the water to see a World War II P38 Lightening plane, sitting just 15 feet beneath us. Back on board we watched Spinner dolphins swim beside the boat, and I had the chance to talk some more to Dr. Monroe and listen to what it was like to be in the Solomon Islands in 1942.