P-MAN IV Update Series, #6
Yesterday was a great day. We had a day off (but had no spare time) and took advantage of the wonderful diving spots in Palau. At sunset a memorial service was held for Maj. Q.B. Nelson, USMC. For those of you actually reading these things, you know we have his son Jim along with us. Jim was an infant when Q.B. was shot down on 16 April 1945. Hmmm, the anniversary of that was yesterday.
We have been waiting for a letter to come across the fax, internet or whatever means possible. It came via email yesterday morning. We are on the far end of all those skinny wires coming out of YOUR computers and phones so nothing is assured of getting here. The letter was from the Commandant of The Marine Corps and was a tribute from the Marines to Q.B.. As we were reading the letter, Tony from Sam's Scuba called seeing if we wanted to go out today. We already had plans, told him no and Val asked how his night dive went from the previous evening. He said it was great and that he had taken some F/A18 pilots with him. Well, my ears perked up. We found out where they were staying, I being so shy called them immediately and we got them to agree to come to our ceremony. They are on a tour of the Pacific putting on presentations for schools, showing off the airplanes and the like. They thought this would fit in nicely. However they were going to Peleliu and timing might be an issue.
Then, thinking outside of the box one more time, I called the U.S. Embassy and asked if the Charge 'd Affaires (I learned how to spell that on this trip!) would like to participate. He was leaving but he sent some words via email. So the stage is set for the serious stuff later in the day. Now on to the scuba diving.
We had our regular boat with Joe driving and Michelle was our underwater guide. There were 5 of us going diving. The rest of the Bent Prop group were being feted on a sail boat by the President of the local Rotary Club. We said we didn't mix well with real adults so the 5 of us blew bubbles. It took an hour to get to Blue Corner. Truly one of the most beautiful dive spots on the planet. It is a wall that starts at about 50 feet and drops down into 'the abyss'. We stayed mostly at 70 feet. There is an up-swell current from the depths that brings up nutrients for the little fishes. Those are eaten by medium fishes who are eaten by big fishies who are eaten by the serious predators. There was more aquatic life in view at anyone time than Carter has little pills. I saw one group of sharks that numbered more than all the sharks I've seen in the past. And a barracuda school that numbered over 500. Bill Belcher said they numbered over 100 but this is my update and my fish story.
We drifted along the wall for awhile, not having to use flippers except for heading control, and watched the undersea world go by us. Then, using specially designed bottom grabbing devices, hook on rope, we hooked onto the top of the wall and just hung and watched. Totally amazing. The colors were so bright and the fish numbers were incredible as they went by us. We had some even 'fly' formation with us as we hung on the rope. 10 minutes later, we were drifting along the top of the reef and we finished with a safety stop at 15 feet, still watching the incredible show.
Had lunch on the boat and went back into the water at Blue Hole. These are 4 vertical shafts that have some different marine life and interesting rock/coral formations. This became another drift dive as the current changed. We drifted back to Blue Corner and saw it from the other side. Great dives.
One nice thing about our private boat was we did not have to be in a herd of divers. As we were roped in to the wall, a 'pod' of 20 divers from another boat came by. We were all thankful we were a group of 6.
On to the serious stuff. We all rallied back at the hotel by 5pm. The Marines from VMFA 225 came back from Peleliu in two different groups but 3 could make our gig. So we all changed, they showed up, we hopped into a van and taxi and as the sun was setting, we arrived at a small pier across from where we think Q.B. was shot down. We gathered up, the cameras were rolling in the low light and Pat started it off. He explained for the benefit of all the story behind Q.B. and Jim Nelson.
Then Val Slocum read a poem:
I read the letter issued from the U.S. Embassy:
LCOL James 'Snake' Daulton, the Commanding Officer of VMFA
225 graciously agreed to read
Two Marine Majors, Smoke and Tufus had unfurled a U.S. flag at the beginning of this affair, they folded it, passed it to LCOL Daulton who handed to Jim. Then Bill Belcher handed a 2nd folded flag to Jim for Jim's mother. Jim had been given a lei to wear at the beginning of the ceremony and Dan O'Brien asked him in the island tradition to toss it on the waters. Words were said by all and everyone was teary eyed. This was the first memorial service for Major Q.B. Nelson ever.
We all went to dinner together, the rest of the Marine Detachment showed up, (that figures, free beer and they finally come). We ate, drank and made merry. The Marines ended the evening with a chorus of The Marine Corps Hymn.
I hear that Jim and Neel Nelson went back to the hotel, the Marines were staying there too, and they all got along famously after they reopened the hotel pub.
The Marines did one last show the flag item. They did a flyover of the area we were working in and for the residents of Koror. And a missing man formation in theory. We heard it, but did not see it as we were in the jungle. The sound of freedom rang throughout the gullies we were working in. They were heading to Yap for a static display of the aircraft and showing the flag.
Well, that was a heck of a day. Today, 17 April, we went to the marina to ride the boat to an island that Albert's brother was going to take us to. Brother did not show up. The taxi driver from last night tracked us down and said Vernon knew where that wreck was. And Vernon said he was willing to lead us there. So off we went, and worked our butts off. I still can't believe riflemen, both Army and Marine, did this with 60 pound packs and a rifle. Amazing. We went up and down, up and down, up and down and Pat says it's the toughest jungle he's ever been in.
When we got back to the boat, we ate, collapsed and waited for the tide to come back in. We got another rain squall to cool us down and we went back to the dock. Tomorrow is supposedly a light day for us. We'll see.
Okay campers. That catches you up to what we've been doing. I hope all is well with you. More when it happens.
Blue SKies, Flip