A New Life! Retirement at its Best 2020-67

I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow-being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again. (William Penn)

This rang so true for me last week, as two good friends passed away. One, the last Navy Veteran I interviewed for my book Survivors of WWII in the Pacific, passed away in Prescott, Arizona. He was the youngest, the last one alive, and even at an advanced age he was always assisting other Veterans whenever he could. I wished I had called him more often. He was considering a retirement home, but in the end his daughter took care of him in the home they had shared for a couple of years. He gave me a copy of his spiral bound book – only printed for members of his family – about the Atomic Bomb Testing. A fascinating eyewitness account, illustrated with many pictures. A wonderful memory I will treasure.

The other one was a friend here in Waltonwood. Ever since the dining room opened again I would see her on a regular basis. Even Mike remembered her, because she used to sit behind him in Chair exercise before Covid. A few days had passed without seeing her, and then her obituary appeared on the table in front of the dining room. I wished I had talked to her more often.

We do not hear very much about what takes place at the Club – aside from rumors I don’t always trust. But when I walked Lani one night, someone called my name and told me that his wife was coming home the next day. I knew she had fallen and gone to the hospital, but now I heard that she had had back surgery and was paralyzed from her knees down. Her husband, together with a team of nurses three days a week will take care of her; at least she is finally home. Now I could do something to brighten her homecoming. Early the next morning I bought a bouquet of brightly colored flowers at Trader Joe’s, arranged them in a proper vase I found in the Flower room (all my vases are outstanding by now) and dropped them off outside her door before she was expected home.

Another friend here in Waltonwood needed to go in for surgery. When I visited her a week before, dressed in a black A-dress with a Hawaiian design, she said, “Oh, I love that dress! I want it!” I thought for a minute, then went home and came back to her with a very similar Hawaiian maxi dress. “After the war, I still have the habit to buy two of everything I buy, just in case. I liked this dress so much when we visited Hawai’i recently, that I bought one with a blue design of Ulu, breadfruit, and another one with an orange design of rain, and then a third one with a variety of quilting designs, all maxi dresses. I cut two of them to just below the knee and have been wearing them often. But really, what can I do with three similar dresses? This one is for you.” She loved it. On the day before her surgery I gave it to her, after I had hemmed it up, the back a little longer than the front, because of her figure, and when she is better and we can have dinner together at the Club, at a table for four, we will both wear our Hawaiian dresses.

Interesting Pacific History Story

Sometimes in life, the guy with the drunken, so crazy-it-just-might-work ideas hits one out of the park and saves the day. This is clearly what happened in 1942 aboard the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, the last Dutch warship standing after the Battle of  Java Sea.

Originally planning to escape to Australia with three other warships, the then-stranded minesweeper had to make the voyage alone and unprotected. The slow-moving vessel could only get up to about 15 knots and had very few guns, boasting only a single 3-inch gun and two Oerlikon 20 mm canons — making it a sitting duck for the Japanese bombers that circled above.

Knowing their only chance of survival was to make it to the Allies Down Under, the Crijnssen‘s 45 crew members frantically brainstormed ways to make the retreat undetected. The winning idea? Turn the ship into an island.

You can almost hear crazy-idea guy anticipating his shipmates’ reluctance: “Now guys, just hear me out…” But lucky for him, the Abraham Crijnssen was strapped for time, resources and alternative means of escape, automatically making the island idea the best idea. Now it was time to put the plan into action.

The crew went ashore to nearby islands and cut down as many trees as they could lug back onto the deck. Then the timber was arranged to look like a jungle canopy, covering as much square footage as possible. Any leftover parts of the ship were painted to look like rocks and cliff faces — these guys weren’t messing around.

Now, a camouflaged ship in deep trouble is better than a completely exposed ship. But there was still the problem of the Japanese noticing a mysterious moving island and wondering what would happen if they shot at it. Because of this, the crew figured the best means of convincing the Axis powers that they were an island was to truly be an island: by not moving at all during daylight hours.

While the sun was up they would anchor the ship near other islands, then cover as much ocean as they could once night fell — praying the Japanese wouldn’t notice a disappearing and reappearing island amongst the nearly 18,000 existing islands in Indonesia. And, as luck would have it, they didn’t.

The Crijnssen managed to go undetected by Japanese planes and avoid the destroyer that sank the other Dutch warships, surviving the eight-day journey to Australia and reuniting with Allied forces.

Miracles do happen

The Battle of Java Sea was a disaster for the Allied Forces. A good friend of my mother’s perished on De Ruyter, the flagship of Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman. Laud and Honor to the Crijnssen’s crew members for ingeniously saving their ship and their lives.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,


3 thoughts on “A New Life! Retirement at its Best 2020-67”

  1. What a wonderful story you shared about the island ship. Fascinating.

    You are truly living a wonderful life.

    • Thank you Linanne. We are, and we are thankful for all our wonderful memories. One of those is meeting your Dad the the theatre in Prescott, walking with two crutches, and me asking: “Did you fight in WWII?” “I fought in three wars,” he said. We instantly became friends.

  2. With our connection re: concentration camp years during WWII, we love reading even more stories about, to us, unknown bits of history. This one about the last Dutch warship after the Battle of the Java Sea is fascinating. Thank you for keeping these Pacific War stories alive. Terry and Carol


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