While still in high school I worked a couple of days a week after school running errands for a house-bound former merchant marine that had been badly burned when the ship he was on was torpedoed by a German submarine. Because of the attack and the resulting injuries he was hooked up to some sort of breathing apparatus attached to an oxygen tank, plus, on-and-off throughout the day he had IVs stuck into his arms and wires attached in various places for monitoring equipment to record his heart rate, blood pressure and other vitals. So said, for the most part, because he was so hooked up to machines and couldn't move he basically just sat there all day long in a den-like room overlooking the street reading books, newspapers and staring out the window.
During World War II the merchant ship he was serving on was queuing up for a convoy and given an early position amongst the other ships in the rear corner on the starboard side that he called "coffin corner," said by experienced hands to be the most easy picking location for submarines in a convoy. Everybody on board was nervous, not only because of the position and the known prowling of German U-boats in the area, but also because previously another crew member, an able-bodied seaman by the name of Olguin (possibly Holguin) had always been with them. Word had it that any time Olguin was part of the crew and the ship was in coffin corner, because of his karma or good luck or whatever they would not be attacked. The legend was alive because not one of the several voyages he had been on and traveling in coffin corner had his ship been hit or even come under attack. On this trip Olguin was either not in the convoy or assigned to another ship. Even before the convoy really got underway a wolfpack started picking at the edges and my friend's ship torpedoed. In order to save himself he had no choice but to jump overboard, landing in an area with oil burning along the surface of the water, the fire scorching his skin as he plunged through and returned for air. He spent months in recovery and rehabilitation.
Some ten years following that torpedo strike, between my sophmore and junior years in high school, the merchant marine, due to long term complications from injuries incurred during the attack, his body basically just shut down and he died. Around that same time the man who would come to be my spiritual guide and Mentor bought and moved into the house next to my grandmother's, who I was living with at the time. I truly missed the camaraderie, friendship and talks with the merchant marine. When my mentor came along, although what he and I discussed seemed on the opposite end of the spectrum, and because neither my father or a father figure was really around much in those days, my mentor filled a huge empty gap in my life. One day, for no real reason I can remember, my experience with Franklin Merrell-Wolff came up after I had been talking about the merchant marine --- like I often did --- but this time how my merchant marine friend had survived being burnt following a torpedo attack and mysteriously found weeks, possibly months later still alive, floating out in the middle of the open ocean strapped to a piece of debris. It was like I had hit my mentor in the head with a hammer. He told me while traveling around the country he met a man either in the Pacific Northwest or from the Pacific Northwest named Richard Rose who was similar to Merrell-Wolff. Oddly enough the brother of the man he met, James Rose, a merchant marine, was killed when his ship was torpedoed by German submarines during World War II. The shock of his brother's death in war, especially since he was aware of is his brother's selfless attitude compared to what he, Richard Rose, deemed to be his own rather shallow ego-based pursuits at the time, is what sent him on his spiritual quest --- basically the exact same thing that happened to MY mentor when he saw his own best friend die in front of his eyes at the hands of the Germans during World War I.
Because of the seemingly incredible coincidence between the two events my mentor continually pressed me on knowing all the information I could muster regarding my merchant marine friend. Over and over I told him what I could remember. In the process of one of our discussions I recalled an article my friend had given me recounting his survival that I was sure I had stuffed away between the pages of the only book he ever gave me, a book about a Navy pilot who I have called here a Shipwrecked Sailor, whose life was saved after coming across a mysterious island that rose up out of the sea called High Barbaree. After searching around a bit I found the article and gave it to my mentor and that seemed to end it.
Months went by. Then one day out of the blue my mentor brought up what he was able to ascertain through the meager research he was able to dig up from what few names and dates were in the article. He told me my merchant marine friend and the brother of the man he met had been attacked at the same time, and, although it wasn't likely they were shipmates, the ships they were on got hit during the same U-boat attack. My mentor told me my merchant marine friend was part of a top secret convoy. The ship the man's brother was on was actually unescorted, and apparently, having spotted the convoy sometime after leaving Baltimore, under the cover of darkness, began tagging along in the shadow of it's wake for protection.
The investigation by my mentor into the attack, as I look back on it, albeit a quasi-heroic attempt considering the availability of information at his disposal in the mid-to-late 1950s, was rudimentary at best. After a constant hounding for clarification from readers of my works, using the much greater research capabilities of the internet some four decades later, although producing a near mirror image reflection of what he said happened, came out with a somewhat different interpretation of the events and how they unfolded. Secret missions are just that, secret. If classified records of the mission are not released or made public in some fashion then, except for bits and pieces here and there from those who may have particpated, then, for the most part that's the end of it. However, just like an observer of the night sky can look up and see a random group of stars and, by connecting them together, see archers, hunters, and serpents, so too can a picture emerge of a "secret mission" IF enough dots are made available.
When I was first informed by my mentor that the convoy my merchant marine friend was on was a top secret mission it meant nothing. It was only several years later when I started putting together bits and pieces that any of it began to take on any sort of significance. In his youth, many, many years before we ever crossed paths, my merchant marine friend had an obsession with Atlantis and the lost continent of Mu. As I recall it now --- stretching back into the dim, foggy reaches of my onetime teenage mind --- I remember my friend telling me about the Azores, a group of islands in the mid-Atlantic well off the coast of Portugal and Africa and how they related to the torpedo attack and Atlantis. Over a period of days during my regular daily visits my merchant marine friend had me get down a bunch of books and maps, spreading the maps all over the desk and all excited, explaining to me the early importance of the Azores in the myth of Atlantis. In several of the books he pointed out how Ignatius Donnelly, author of Atlantis: The Antediluvian World (1882), had first proposed that the Azores were the remnant remains of an Atlantean island continent --- and he told me how he always wanted to go to the islands because of it. He thought the convoy he was on was going to end up there. In those early months of World War II a highly secret plan was being put into place for an invasion of North Africa. How that invasion was going to work, during the time the convoy was being put into place, had not been finalized. One school of thought felt that staging an invasion from the Azores and Canary Islands would be a good idea. The other school of thought felt a direct invasion would be the best as taking over both islands first then building up men and materials would be a dead giveaway of a potential North African invasion. The convoy he was on was doing top secret pre-staging staging of equipment, material, and ships in Puerto Rico for a quick jump either to the Azores and Canaries or directly to North Africa. His ship was sunk before it ever reached Puerto Rico.
As presented previously above, as my mentor told it, my merchant marine friend was part of a top secret convoy. He said my friend and the brother of the man he met had been attacked at the same time, and, although it wasn't likely they were shipmates, the ships they were on got hit during the same U-boat attack. He said, and I repeat here for emphasis, the ship the man's brother was on was unescorted and apparently, having spotted the convoy sometime after leaving Baltimore, under the cover of darkness, began tagging along in the shadow of it's wake for protection --- all of which is fairly close to, but NOT exactly what happened.
According to crew lists of ships hit by U-boats, in May of 1942 James Rose, the brother of the man my mentor met, was onboard the U.S. freighter Delisle, my merchant marine friend on the American steam tanker S.S. Halsey. The Halsey had traversed around the southern tip of Florida from New Orleans filled to the gills with highly flammable oil and naphtha, joining a number of other ships forming up into a convoy scheduled to go to Puerto Rico. Rose's ship, the Delisle, had left Baltimore loaded with steel drums of camouflage paint on her deck along with other war-related material under a manifest to travel to Puerto Rico. On Monday afternoon May 4, 1942, around five o'clock Atlantic War Time the Delisle was hit by one torpedo from U-564 about 15 miles north of Jupiter Inlet, Florida and two crew members, of which Rose was one, were killed. Two days later, near midnight Wednesday, May 6, 1942 the Halsey was hit by two torpedoes from U-333 somewhat less than four miles east of Jupiter Inlet. Regarding the attack, U-Boat.net in Notes on Loss writes:
"The torpedoes struck close together on the port side at the #2 and #3 main tanks. The explosion ripped a hole in the side 60 feet long. The master stopped the engines and headed toward the shore. No distress signal was sent, because the radio antenna had been destroyed. The entire crew of eight officers and 24 men abandoned ship in two lifeboats 15 minutes after the attack, the other two boats had been destroyed by the explosions. The men were nearly asphyxiated by the naphtha fumes before they could clear the ship. After one hour, the U-boat came alongside the lifeboats and offered assistance, but it was declined."(source)
In order to save himself my merchant marine friend had no choice but to jump overboard, landing in an area with oil and naphtha burning along the surface of the water, the fire scorching his skin as he plunged through and returned for air. In CARLOS CASTANEDA: Before Don Juan, the following on my merchant marine friend is presented:
"(He) was found weeks, possibly months after his ship had been torpedoed somewhere in the Atlantic strapped with heavy ropes to a piece of debris floating all alone in the middle of the ocean, and except for being unconscious and heavily scared from the burn marks, which had seemingly healed, he was in pretty good shape. Everybody said it was a miracle, that his burns must had healed by the salt water. How he had made it in the open ocean without food or water nobody knew. Most people speculated he had been picked up by a U-boat and ejected at a convenient time so he would be found, although no record has ever shown up to substantiate such an event, nor did he recall ever being on a submarine, German or otherwise."(source)
So, how does it all play out? The Halsey had yet to reach what would eventually become coffin corner of the still loose-knit convoy as it was forming up when the Delisle was hit. The Delisle was north of and headed toward the group when struck. Two days later as the Halsey reached and began turning into it's position she was hit with two torpedoes. In a sense the two vessels were part of the same convoy, albeit before the final formulation of the group. As to being hit in the same attack, again, in a sense that was the case if taken in a larger overview that the subs were operating together as a pack in the same area. It is my opinion that the subs prowling up and down off the Florida coast hitting the ships as they came upon them did not realize a much larger picture was in order.
There are two sets of reports on the number of survivors following the attack of the Halsey, the ship my merchant marine friend was on. One says all crew members were saved. Another states 5 killed, 28 saved. The discreprancy most likely is related to initial reports and an eventual final account. After all, my merchant marine friend did survive but was not among the initial survivors, being found at sea months later. Two of the four lifeboats had been destroyed by the explosions and not all of the crew members could actually fit into the two remaining boats. So too, an hour after the attack the U-333 came alongside the lifeboats and offered assistance, but it was declined. It could be during that one hour period of time the U-333 had located and returned members of the crew. My friend was found in the north Atlantic miles from the attack months later, and although he himself said he did not recall ever being on a submarine, German or otherwise, it could possibly be the case that he was, after all he was severely burned. It could be he was attended to on the submarine --- although it must be said, they had limited facilities, and will, to do so for any extended period of time. He, however, held to the belief that other things were in the works and that the story of the shipwrecked sailor as found in Egyptian legend and most notedly the downed Navy pilot as found in High Barbaree more closely reflected what happened.
WORLD WAR II COMES TO REDONDO
GERMAN SUBMARINE ATTACK ON HOOVER DAM
THE ULTIMATE IN SHIPWRECKED SAILORS:
VIKINGS OF THE DESERT SOUTHWEST: THE LOST VIKING SHIP
THE BRITISH MOTOR MERCHANT TULAGI
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
To my knowledge my merchant marine friend never left his house except for two times during all the time I knew him. The first time was around three months after I started working for him. During that period a continuous series of high-powered winter storms battered the coastline all along Redondo Beach for a good two weeks straight, with giant two-story high waves tearing out a good portion of the beach and destroying houses all along the Strand. The damage received a good amount of national coverage and almost nonstop local coverage. My merchant marine friend, who could barely get between rooms without collapsing, decided he wanted to see the waves and destruction himself in real life. He got a couple of merchant marine buddies along with a couple of ex-navy guys he knew, one of whom was Guy Hague, who became famous in his own right one day, to carry him down to the street along with all of his breathing stuff, put him in the back of a panel truck, and take him down to the Strand.
Several women observing the waves recognized one of the sailors and came over to talk and fuss over the merchant marine who had been carried up on a stretcher. Interestingly enough, and much to the surprise of the men and the merchant marine, a couple of the women recognized me. None of it would had meant one thing one way or the other except that the women worked for Fifie Malouf.
Five years before going with my Merchant Marine friend down to see the waves along the Strand I lived with a foster couple who lived in Hermosa Beach but had a business in Redondo Beach. For whatever reason, not liking my living arrangements, I ran away from home. Without anybody knowing where I was or having anybody's consent I ended up staying with an only just recently released World War II ex-Marine taxi driver that had fought his way up through all the islands in all the major battles in the Pacific from Guadalcanal northward. The taxi driver and I would have breakfast several days a week at Malouf's Happy Hour Cafe and sometimes I would hang out in the cafe in the afternoons or evenings while the ex-marine "visited a friend" in one of the apartments attached to the cafe. As a young boy basically unattended in the cafe it wasn't long before some of the women --- who worked for Fifie and knew what was going on --- befriended me. It was a couple of those same women who recognized me that day I was with my merchant marine friend.
The second time my merchant marine friend ever left his house was about six months before he died. I started to work for him just as I began the 9th grade. Two years later, during the summer between my junior and senior year, apparently because of all the trauma and stress he had endured over the years from the severe burns, his body just gave out and he died. Even though he had severe burns and scaring from the torpedo attack and was housebound to boot with a tough time talking, he still had all kinds of people that used to stop by and see him and get into big long discussions on all sorts of topics. But, for all the knowledge and topics he could talk about what he was really known for was Atlantis and Mu --- both of which he not only studied indepth and had book after book on, but he also had spent a good part of his life out in the field physically searching for clues to their existence. In the end, as a one time true believer, he became convinced neither existed and would argue vehemently with a huge arsenal of information and facts at his fingertips against either of the lost continents.
In those days both the merchant marine and I lived in homes on the 200 block south in Redondo Beach. Just a few short blocks away, with an address in the 500 north Gertruda section lived a man by the name of Truman Bethurum. Bethurum would come by the merchant marine's house on occasion and the two of them would get into heated discussions. Several times he was there I was there. The last time I remember seeing him at the merchant marine's house was in February 1954. Bethurum told him that in a couple of days, on Friday evening February 19th, at the Neptunian Womens Club clubhouse in Manhattan Beach (a few miles north of Redondo) he was going to give an hour-long talk begining at 8 p.m. and hoped he could be there. With much struggle and pain, with the help of several of his merchant marine friends, for whatever reason, he made it and I tagged along.
Unknown to me at the time, all the while Bethurum had been coming by to visit my merchant marine friend he was rising up the ranks just to the cusp of being famous --- famous for what was was being called a "contactee." I was told a contactee was a person who had been contacted by aliens from another world. At his talk that night, in so many words, Bethurum said his experience began after his shift working as a maintenance mechanic for the Wells Cargo Construction Company, an asphalt mixing plant in Nevada. Tired, he took a little time to take a snooze at a nearby place called Morman Mesa where he had been hunting for ancient seashells. In the process he encountered a UFO and its occupants including the ships captain, a female named Aura Rhanes. According to what Rhanes told him she came from a planet called Clarion, which was not known to earth-based astronomers because its orbital path kept it permanently hidden from the earth behind the moon. Bethurum claimed his first contact took place on July 7, 1952 (later corrected to Saturday or Sunday of July 26 or 27) and since then to have had several similar encounters and at the time of his presentation continued to look forward to the time when he could travel to Rhanes' home planet Clarion.
I sent a letter to my uncle outlining Bethurum's story. He wrote back saying to take the guy for what he is worth, but he sounded like a nut case. My uncle said he had three personal experiences with flying objects of an unknown origin, the San Antonio crash (1945), the Roswell crash (1947) and the Kingman UFO (1953), and not once, under any circumstances involving the objects, had he run into any sort of alien life forms, dead or alive. My uncle's advice, possibly tinged with a tiny bit of jealousy, asked what I thought my dad would think if he found out I was listening to Bethurum. After all, he said, my dad had told him (my uncle) when he asked me join him in Kingman that he "was filling my mind with all kinds of 'weird and useless shit' and to and keep his 'cock-and-bull stories' to himself."
Bethurum died in 1969 after reaching his pinnacle some years before. When his narrative about Clarion being in an orbit kept out of sight by the moon was proven to be scientifically infeasible he said he was mistaken and that the planet was really in the exact orbital path of the earth only directly opposite of the earth on the other side of the sun. When that was discredited he moved the planet to another solar system.
Some people have questioned how I can be so sure so many years after the fact that February 19th was the specific date for Bethurums talk at the Neptunian Club. If you remember from the above, with the passing of my mother I was sent to live with a foster couple that owned a flower shop and of whom, almost immediately, I ran away from and ended up staying with an ex-Marine who had fought his way through all of the major Pacific battles. He was a tough, rough sort of guy and could back it up if necessary. One day I found him sitting bent over with his head in his hands looking all the same as though he was crying. After composing himself and shaking it off as though nothing had happened he told me that it was his birthday and that he and his very best buddy in the military shared the exact same birthdate. They went everywhere together and did everything together. The two of them had fought their way up through all the islands side by side from Guadalcanal northward.
He said barely a year and a half ago, on February 19, 1945, the two of them had just landed on Iwo Jima and no sooner had he come ashore than his best buddy was blown to bits right in front of his eyes and what was left of him wouldn't even fill a dog food can.
My mentor gave me the above information near the end of, or just following the completion of my high school years. I have strewn the names of both Richard Rose and James Rose liberally throughout the article as if he spoke of them by using their names at the time. However, during the actual time the conversations were unfolding IF the names Richard Rose or James Rose were ever mentioned specifically I do not recall. I am almost certain I learned about the two of them from my mentor without knowing their names. It has only been after the fact that I have been able to put names to the people my mentor was speaking of.
The seemingly incredible coincidences between the two events, that is, my mentor, in his travels, meeting a man "not unlike Franklin Merrell-Wolff" who, because of his brother's death in the war, went on a spritual quest that ended in his ultimate Attainment --- which almost exactly paralelled my mentor's life in reaching his Attaiment, was of great interest to my mentor. When he discovered the interelationship between my merchant marine friend and the death of the brother of the man he met, the two of them being on board ships struck by German U-boats during the same attack, it was almost too much to comprehend.
The man killed in the U-boat attack was named James Rose. The man my mentor met was Richard Rose and, not unlike my mentor said, "like" Franklin Merrell-Wolff, a man of deep spiritual Attainment. The interesting part is a connection of sorts regarding Richard Rose and one Alfred Robert Pulyan. Alfred Pulyan was a man of truly great spiritual prowess, an "American Zen Master" without the Zen nor the Buddhism, yet Enlightened in the Finality of the Absolute in the same tradition as in the spiritual Awakenings attributed to the ancient classical masters. Richard Rose would eventually become one of Pulyan's foremost and strongest advocates. Although my mentor had met Richard Rose it was Pulyan that he was the most impressed with, as the following will attest:
"After a two year stint in the military along with doing months of hard time in a Zen monastery(see), I sought out my mentor once again with the intention of at least a semi-return to practice. What he saw he didn't like, saying the military brought out a beast in me, plus all I really wanted to do was use my college time to party and chase girls. He agreed that my unsuccessful foray under Yasutani should have ended somewhat differently and was unsure why it didn't. By spring he had pretty much mellowed and so had I. Thinking I needed something in between Yasutani and his own teaching he arranged for me to go to Connecticut and visit a nearly invisible man of great spiritual prowess by the name of Alfred Pulyan. Just as spring was reaching its final count down I showed up at Pulyan's wooded rural compound and began a most unsual almost non-study study --- the visit growing through to well past the middle of summer because, I'm sure, of my mentor as well as Pulyan's own graciousness. He inturn introduced me to his teacher, a woman of extreme attainment who lived close by. Before I could return the following year Pulyan died." (source)
I do not know for sure if my mentor and Pulyan knew each other in the classical sense or if the two just "knew OF each other," say through a letter of introduction or word of mouth of a mutual friend. It is my belief that Pulyan's teacher was the actual person my mentor knew and it was through HER my mentor "knew" Pulyan. If Pulyan's teacher had been a student of my mentor or they just happened to travel in the same circles at one and the same time is not known. As I look back it seems I spent nearly as much time in the company of Pulyan's teacher as I did with Pulyan.
Pulyan always receives the lion's share of interest when it comes to his Awakening and being an Enlightened Being, and, it must be said, well deserved at that. However, in the end, it must also be said that it was HIS teacher that was actually responsible for his transformation. She gets no applause or recognition, BUT she does inspire a great deal of interest as well as an unending liturgy of curiosity for many because of her role in his Awakening and the fact that to this day Pulyan's Teacher, a female Ramana without a mountain or a following, remains facetiously unknown.
Not to play down or denigrate Richard Rose in any way, it must be said my primary emphasis here is not directed toward Rose himself or who he was --- or any level or quality of his Attainment or abilities --- BUT the coincidence of the torpedo attack surrounding my merchant marine friend and the death of Rose's brother in potentially the same attack, and how, in a manner similar to that of my mentor, Rose was then driven to go on his spiritual quest. In ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds I present the following about my mentor:
"During World War I, at age sixteen, he (the Wanderling's mentor at the original source) joined the Canadian army, became a pilot, and fought in Europe. He was aware that many thousands of young men were dying on the ground beneath him, plummeted to death by artillery shells, gassed, and rotting to death in the trenches, but it wasn't until his own best friend died in front of his own eyes that he was shaken to his spine with remorse and repugnance. Driven by an unquenchable desire to find the accountability of life and not knowing what to look for, he embarked on a ten year journey that took him through Europe, China, Burma, and India in search of an answer." (see)
The following, about Richard Rose, who died in 2005 and his brother James, who died at the hands of the Germans during that U-boat attack circa 1942, speaks for itself. It comes from a biographical sketch on Rose and presented here without comment:
"What probably ended the period of bliss was the death of his older brother James who was serving in the Merchant Marine on a vessel that was torpedoed by a German submarine. Rose had a strong bond with this older brother who was generous and fatalistic. He'd taken the most dangerous job on the ship, working in the boiler room on the night shift -- typical of his lifelong concern and sacrifice for others. His death shocked Rose to the core, seeing in comparison the gigantic egotism of his own spiritual quest." (see)
In the continuing theme of incredible coincidences, if you want to see another incredible coincidence regarding my mentor and the merchant marine take a few minutes to read Guy Hague, the person thought by many to have been the role model for the main character in the novel The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham.
Speaking of incredible coincidences, of some interest to those of you have read this far may be the paragraphs below as found in La Palma Secert Base:
Over and over people want to know why this almost borderline psychological addiction with all this submarine stuff? After all, they ask, are you not a known Zen man of some accomplishment --- why page after page of submarines, why not more on Enlightenment or help for those seeking along the path?
Good question. Even though the submarine pages are each stand alone pages unto themselves, they are still interwoven into the fabric of my own journey along the path, thus inturn it is hoped, casting light however meager, for guidence along your own.
The answer starts well over a half century ago, on the morning of Friday March 10, 1944. On that date I was a young boy traveling in India under the auspices of a foster couple and staying at the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Totally unrelated and unbeknownst to me or anybody involved with me or the parties I was with, on that same date as well, the British motor merchant MV Tulagi, loaded with a cargo of flour and 380 bags of mail sailed from Australia for Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) under control and orders of the British Admiralty. Proceeding down the New South Wales Coast, and, via the Bass Strait she rounded Cape Leuwin and on into the Indian Ocean. Seventeen days later, on March 27, 1944, with a full complement of 54 on board she was torpedoed by the German Submarine U-532 of the First Monsun Group operating out of Penang, Malaysia. She sank in 20 seconds. Of the 54 crew members only 15 survived, taking to two lifeboats. Following the torpedo attack and after 58 days adrift the seven members of ONE of the rafts finally came across a group of small islands. Just before midnight they landed on Bijoutier, a tiny island of the Alphonse Group belonging to the Outer Islands of the Seychelles. The eight members of the second raft, separated halfway into their drift from the first, basically disappeared and have never been officially accounted for. Some time after the sinking of the MV Tulgai found me in the Indian Ocean as a passenger on a lone, unescorted ship in those very same submarine infested waters on a return trip bound for England and then the U.S. During the months I was gone the woman of the couple I was with had written three letters to my father which years later eventually fell into my hands, of which the following quote refers to her comments found in her last letter:
"TheLiverpool letter, except for several long incoherent paragraphs about picking up a live survivor or two or none at all amongst several dead in a life raft sometime before arriving or after leaving Cape Town, South Africa, circulated mostly around the logistics of bringing me home."
SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI: And The Last American Darshan
The letter so mentioned in the quote was written by the woman of a couple that took me, as a young boy, to India. In the letter she indicated that a liferaft was encountered in some fashion by the ship we were on during our return trip to England. How she worded it wasn't totally clear and could be deciphered, at least in how I read it, in a number of ways. It was clear in what she said that there was a liferaft, but IF the liferaft was encountered before or after Cape Town or IF there were or were not survivors was muddled. She didn't elaborate one way or the other or attempt to clarify the event because anything regarding the liferaft had nothing at all to do to do with the point she was trying to get across in the letter. I do not remember anything about a voyage home or anything to do with any liferafts. However, backtracking through all the events, in all my research, taking into consideration time, place, ships attacked and sunk, survivors and non survivors, etc., only one ship fits the bill, the aforementioned British motor merchant MV Tulagi. Now, I have no idea how many times the ship I was on came into the periscope crosshairs of German U-boats, if any. However, the whole route of travel from India, around Africa and into the Atlantic on to England was crawling with submarines, every one seeking an easy, vunerable target. Looking back it must have been pure luck, fate or karma, but in any case throughout the years I have come to appreciate the results and established in me a strong interest in how the actions and selected non-interaction of submarines and their operations, Japanese or German thereof, have impacted the outcome of my life.
THE BRITISH MOTOR MERCHANT TULAGI
On the same day my merchant marine friend told me the story about being found floating in the middle of the ocean on a piece of debris he showed me a delicate gold necklace that had what looked like a small Chinese character dangling from it. He said one day in the hospital while being given a sponge bath he was looking in a hand mirror at his burn marks when he noticed he had the necklace around his neck. He never had a gold necklace in his life. When he asked the nurse where it came from she said as far as she knew he came in with it as it was found amongst the few personal effects he had with him. She said typically they would not put any jewelry on a patient but some of the staff thought that since he was so scared by the burns that he might like a little beauty in his life so someone put it around his neck. He told me he had no clue where it came from or how it came into his possession, but for sure he didn't have it on before he was torpedoed. He said everybody always admired it and it appeared to be very ancient.
Several years after I saw the necklace for the very first time found me in the Cholon district of Saigon gulping down a large amount of a seemingly never ending supply of of alcoholic beverages. From out of the smoky milieu of mostly horny and inebriated GIs, unsolicited, what was affectionately tagged in those days as a Saigon Tea Girl, attempted to sit on my lap and tried to put something around my neck. Pushing back I could see she held what appeared to be a gold necklace stretched between her hands. Hanging midway along the necklace was a small Chinese character. Basically grabbing the necklace from her hands I asked where it came from and how she got it. She turned facing a general group of barely discernible figures sitting and drinking toward the back of the barroom in the shadows along the darkened wall, telling me that one of the men, a burnt man, had paid her to put it on me. When I asked what she meant by a burnt man, using her hands in a swirling motion in front of her face combined with a snearing facial expression to indicate scars while gasping for air as if the man had a tough time breathing, said in broken english, "burnt man, burnt man." In just the few seconds it took me to work my way through the crowd to the back wall pulling the tea girl with me the burnt man, if there ever was a burnt man, was gone. Nor could anybody at any of the tables remember seeing or talking to a heavily scared man, burnt or otherwise, sitting at any of the tables --- although some of the GIs were fully able to recall the girl.
The necklace, which I still have and continue to wear to this day, from what I could remember, looked exactly like the one my merchant marine friend showed me and said to be mysteriously wearing out of nowhere the day he was found floating in the sea after his ship was torpedoed. The only problem is, by the time the incident in the Saigon bar occurred my friend had already been dead some ten years, having passed away during the summer between my sophmore and junior years in high school. At his memorial service I was told by family members, following a death bed request on his part, that in an effort to rejoin his fellow seamen he wanted to be cremated and his ashes tossed at sea near where his ship was torpedoed and, along with the ashes, the necklace returned to the sea as well. As far as I know those wishes had been complied with.
The necklace, which seems to manifest an almost mystical aura about it, saved my life more than once, most notably as found in the following at the source so cited:
"Within the members of the relatively small search team, Chinese all, was a Buddhist or Zen Buddhist. When they came across me, not knowing if I was the one they were searching for or not, the Buddhist amongst them noticed the small Chinese symbol hanging around my neck. The team was just going to abandon me, but the Buddhist, after seeing what I had around my neck told them I was under protection of the Lord Buddha and to leave me in such a state and in such surroundings would be bad Karma --- that nothing but bad fortune and and bad luck would follow them if they did not take me with them." (source)
As to the necklace itself and where it came from, the merchant marine, although through his studies he had long since lost faith in the existence of either the lost continent of Mu and Atlantis himself, through inference he often related the origin of the necklace back back to one or the other or both. However, the grounding source for the origin of the necklace usually falls back to the mysterious hermitage said to exist somewhere beyond time in a remote area of the Himalayas known under a variety of names such as Gyanganj, Shambhala or Shangri-La.(see) How the necklace eventually fell into his hands is still not known to this day.