The Chaplain Who Could Fly
We were stationed at Pearl Harbor in 1943. Some work had been done on our carrier and we were resupplied with planes, ammo, and stores for our next campaign against the Japanese. The Ship’s Chaplain of USS Savo Island CVE-78 came to me and asked if we could make one last run into Honolulu before departing.
In port, I had the assignment to drive one of our ship’s two Jeeps wherever it was necessary for our ship’s business in port. We were tied up at a pier in Pearl City and it was a long run into Honolulu. I had made the run several times before.
The Chaplain said the Red Cross had some books and magazines for us to take on our text tour of duty, if we could pick them up before our ship’s scheduled departure. We were to cast off in 35 minutes. Could I get him in to the Red Cross and return before the ship left?
We had no time to do much thinking about it. The ship would not wait for us if we didn’t get back on time. I told the Chaplain that it would be very close, as we climbed into the Jeep, but I would do my best.
A Jeep, when wide open, would do 60mph and it was a handful at that speed, but I was about 19 years old and a good driver with good reflexes. We were doing about our utmost when we came upon a bridge with a ramped approach. The river crossed under the bridge at an angle. We went up the ramp, became airborne, and I was ready for the landing with the wheels cocked ready for the turn that we would have to make upon landing. We came down hard but I had her under control.
The Chaplain, who was hanging on for his life, had put his hands down under the seat frame near its attachment to the floor. His fingers were under the frame when it came down and were pinched badly, but he still had to hang on because we flew off the other end of the bridge and landed hard again, straightened out and the Chaplain’s fingers were smashed again. (What he shouted, I think, was addressed directly to God.)
We continued into Honolulu, never slowing our pace, until we reached the Red Cross Building where some folks were waiting for us. The cargo was placed into the back of the Jeep, and we were on our return to the ship at the same fast pace. This time, when we came to the bridge, the Chaplain was hanging on to a different spot but we still flew onto and off of the bridge again.
As we came down to dock the ship’s crew were all crowded on the flight deck waiting to see if we would make it. The ship had already cast off and was slowing moving away from the dock. It didn’t look like we were going to make it.
A bos’ns mate was there on the dock and he directed us into the center of a big rope cargo net spread out on the dock. We were stopped in the middle of the net and the signal was given to hoist away, as the bos’ns mate climbed into the Jeep with the Chaplain and me. The net closed around us, and we lifted aboard the Savo Island by the boom.
The crew cheered as we were deposited on the flight deck. We were on our way with the books and magazines, and a Chaplain with very sore fingers.
— Winfield J. Sluyter, US Navy
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