Leo waved in their direction again before looking down at his coconut. The natives took their time in deciphering Leo and Ray. New to this cataclysmic clash of civilizations, they were beginning to learn the differences between the Japanese and the Americans. After much deliberation, the natives emerged from the jungle confident that they were safe. A gang, much larger than Leo expected, of Black Polynesian men with red hair, black teeth and calico loin clothes walked out of the brush. They made their way over to Leo as he was still fiddling with his coconut. The man in charge, his authority marked by a black shirt, walked out in front of the group and stood over Leo. As Leo switched his attention from the coconut to his visitor, a machete quickly emerged and was hurtling in his direction. Leo had no time to react as the machete screamed past him smashing his coconut in half. Dinner was served.
While Leo and Ray sipped from the island fare, one of the Polynesians began speaking to them in English. He had spent some time with the Methodist Mission on Guadalcanal and they were able to communicate quite effectively. After some lengthy introductions, the man, who would come to be known as “the chief”, dispatched a runner to the British District Officer to let him know of their arrival. Another runner was sent to the Roman Catholic Mission to send horses to the chief’s village. Leo and Ray would spend the night at their village before proceeding on their journy to meet British District Officer, Martin Clemens.
“How far to the village?” Leo asked. He and Ray were carrying their shoes after three days of being soaked in salt water. “Close up,” the chief replied. Leo and Ray continued on, following the natives barefoot as they entered into the jungle. Over sharp rocks and thorny bushes, the two men thought the village was just around the next corner. After about a mile, they arrived at the village with some bruised feet. Leo and Ray hobbled up to a thatched hut elevated six feet off the ground by bamboo floor joists. This was the chief’s hut and, as Leo later found out, he turned his family out for the evening to feed and shelter his new guests.
The next day, a tall, blond young man from the Roman Catholic mission arrived with some horses. Leo and Ray gratefully said goodbye to the chief and translator, taking down their names and mailing addresses for future correspondence. Next, as was custom in their culture, Leo and Ray shook the hands of every man, woman and child in the village. On to the next legs of their journey: a quick stop at the Roman Catholic Mission and then to the boy’s school at the eastern end of the island.
Leo and Ray were brought to the British District Headquarters the following evening. As the surprisingly large, ornate building came into view, no one came out to greet them. The two men walked around the headquarters with their guides and, noticing the beautiful view of the surrounding islands, saw no one in sight. After a while of wandering around, Martin Clemens appeared out of nowhere in particular. Unsure of who was paying him a visit, Martin used this time to practice his evacuation manuevuers. Everything was gone; clothes, baggage and radio equipment out of the headquarters and into the jungle within 15 minutes he boasted. Just enough time to evade any intruder looking to pay him a unwanted visit.
Martin Clemens, as described by Leo, “ was tall, about 6’2, young, red – haired, red – bearded and apparently the kind of fellow who enjoys life thoroughly wherever he is and whatever is coming at him.” Living in a large, frame house abandoned during the war, Martin seldom thought of life when the Japanese would come to occupy the island. His job was to govern what was left of his district on Guadalcanal and contributed to the war by being a member of the coast watcher organization. All this was done in the most civilized matter that the current conditions would permit.
The three days spent with Martin Clemens comprised of drinking his remaining gin and figuring out a way to get Leo and Ray back in the action. Martin had arranged for the men to travel to San Cristobal by launch, where the British District Office at San Cristobal arranged passage on a Chinese schooner. Eventually, as the details are fuzzy in Leo’s account, they boarded the four stack destroyer, the USS John Paul Jones in route to Pearl Harbor. While on board, Leo and Ray listened to the play by play account of arguably the most important battle in the South Pacific, the Battle of Midway.
Thus ends Leo’s account of his adventure in the South Pacific. They are dropped off at Pearl Harbor sometime after the Battle of Midway. Now, moving beyond the account that started our journey, filling our hat with some substance to go along with the dreams, is the question what happens next? I’m not sure where Leo goes after Pearl Harbor or his role in the rest of World War II. There is still a lot of fighting left before the Japanese sign an unconditional surrender on September 2, 1945 and I imagine that he is still involved in some way, shape or form. As Bill continues his search with his family members, I have taken on the task of reading the stack of books in my room that contain the name Leonard “Spike” Ewoldt in the index. Hopefully amongst this stack, our next clue emerges.