To The Battle Zone

After another short liberty in Pearl Harbor, the BRAINE, as part of the screening for a supply convoy, proceeded by a long route to the southwest Pacific to join the Battle of the Solomon Islands. A few days out of Pearl Harbor, enroute to Pago Pago in the Samoa Islands, strange rumors began to circulate about Pollywogs and the horrible punishment inflicted by the Shellbacks.

A Proclamation soon appeared ordering the lowly Pollywogs (everyone, including officers, who had never crossed the Equator) to appear before the Royal Court of Neptunus Rex and accept the decreed punishment and humiliation when the BRAINE crossed the Equator on 17 October 1943 at Longitude 161° 44'W. The poor Pollywogs did not know that the BRAINE was transporting fifty AWOL sailors, who had been previously initiated as Shellbacks, back to their ships in the South Pacific.

After an unappetizing breakfast which the Pollywogs were forced to eat with their hands, the initiation began. The ship was thoroughly searched for cringing Pollywogs to be sure that no one escaped their punishment. The Pollywogs lined up on the starboard main deck and were forced to crawl through a gauntlet of Shellbacks manning fire hoses and paddles made of stuffed canvas resembling a baseball bat and almost as hard. Drenched with sea water, they were forced to crawl up the ladder to the superstructure and accept their punishment in front of the Royal Court of Neptunus Rex.

The Court was presided over by King Neptune himself, an old salt of a Boswains Mate Malloy, who was covered with tattoos. The King was assisted by Davy Jones and the Royal Queen, Royal Doctor, Royal Dentist, Royal Barber, Royal Chaplain, Royal Baby and Royal Scribe.

After the lowly Pollywog was judged he was forced to consume a bitter concoction and kiss the belly of the Royal Baby. The hair of the Pollywogs was trimmed with decorative paths through his scalp and smeared with a mixture of chocolate and grease. The staggering Pollywog then crawl down the port ladder and through another gauntlet of Shellbacks.

After cleaning up, most of the newly initiated Shellbacks visited the ship’s barber to have the rest of their hair removed. For several weeks they were easily identified by their skinheads, but proudly displayed their Shellback credentials, hoping for another crossing of the Equator in the future.

The ship made a short fueling stop at Pago Pago, a beautiful island in the Samoa chain, and proceed to the Solomon Islands via New Caledonia and New Hebrides, all the time honing the skills of the crew at their battle stations.


The BRAINE arrived in the Solomon Islands in late October ready to engage in action. As the ship anchored in Purvis Bay at Florida Island near Guadalcanal, the crew saw sunken Japanese barges--another sign that the war was close at hand.

The BRAINE joined Destroyer Squadron 45, with the USS FULLAM - DD474 as flagship, with destroyers USS BENNETT - DD473, USS GUEST - DD472, USS HALFORD - DD480, USS HUDSON - DD475, USS WADSWORTH - DD516, USS TERRY - DD513 and the USS ANTHONY - DD515, a destroyer that would later play an important role in the lives of the crew members of the BRAINE.

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