The Caribbean Sea

Update in progress. Please do not read this.

Jim loved movies. He seemed to know every star and director of every movie from his era. He was forever talking about movies and actors I didn’t know. As I age out towards (and beyond) the age when he was relating those stories, it’s obvious that I know many movies, actors and directors that my kids have never heard of. Just like Jim. Are we doomed to be just like the people who raised us? I hope so.

“plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”

Jim includes this letter early in his series because he spent WWII in the South Pacific in the very ship that’s being filmed for this movie. Early in the war he had been in the bowels of the ship. During their deployment he was promoted to work on the bridge.  He lived exactly those scenes, at least once and maybe more.

I imagine that Jim could have been one of the sailors stripped down in the Caribbean sun, waving his shirt at the camera boat. Could he have been an “extra” climbing on the guns? His squirrely attitude fits that opportunity.

Grandpa Guy Havelick


Originally published 2014-10-20
Updated 2017-02-01

Jim writes:

AwayAllBoatsWho hasn’t heard of the movie “Away All Boats” starring Jeff Chandler and Lex Barker? This WWII saga recreated the landing of American forces on a Japanese held island in the South Pacific during 1944. Universal-International Film studios in cooperation with eighteen U.S. Naval ships, thousands of troops, in full battle gear, planes, tanks and landing craft enacted a very convincing portrayal of a wartime assault on an enemy in all its horrors and furies!

It is one thing to be reluctantly committed to a wartime situation over which we have absolutely no control, but recreating all this for the sole benefit of the Hollywood movie makers seemed to some of old WWII veterans an ironic farce! All this melee was taking place on and near an island in the Caribbean Sea called Vieques and was not too distant from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands.

Picture this unique scenario … an armada of eighteen fighting ships of the U.S. Navy, thousands of troops, weighted down with combat gear, in dozens of landing craft, airplanes bombing the island, the ships firing salvos to soften up the Jap held island emplacements and all the while the U-I studio camera crews were scuttling among the ships and troops filming all this frantic drama! To enhance the effect, smoke bombs and huge geysers of water were showering the landing craft and its troops making visibility nearly extinct. The waters were very choppy and most of the troops were seasick from the constant plunging and heaving of the boats!

Our ship, “Albergo del Fremonte” or more commonly known as “old rust bucket” was in the thick of this activity. Of paramount importance was the fact that realism, at all costs, was the sole key to the success of this movie. Every man, from the Admiral to the lowliest seaman was to constantly keep this fact in mind, This was deadly serious business and our faces and actions should reflect the gut-churning fear and horror of real war!

But, as you might expect, the best laid plans sometimes go awry! It appears that a few of the sailors on one of the ships did not share in the Admirals idea of “stark realism.” As the camera crew, fighting nausea in the tossing boat, came around the bow of one particular ship, the crew filmed a shocking, unprecedented wartime activity … here were sailors in various stages of undress, waving articles of clothing, laughing, shouting at the camera crews to get their attention … they needn’t have bothered! Some were in their “skivvies” dancing around the gun tubes … here were gun crews who were supposed to be in full battle dress manning the guns, with a death grip and fear in their faces, firing at the enemy!

Bad news travels fast and signals were flying furiously between the ships … the was came to a grinding, embarrassing halt!

As a result of a few sailors idea of spirited fun the entire landing sequence had to be re-staged and re-shot … and that was not the end of it, discipline was tightened up … all liberty, shore leave cancelled. The hapless sailors were duly chastised and all ships and troops received a stern warning from the Admiral that from now on “any lack of realism is inexcusable and would not be tolerated. Period.” For some perverse reason I wish that little scene, a departure from the norm, would somehow have sneaked its way into the final, finished product of the film.

Just think how it would have changed the outcome of the war!!

Jim's Letter 004