In 1947 a movie version of the book The High Barbaree by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, the same authors who wrote Mutiny on the Bounty, came out. Set in World War II and following the plot of the novel, the movie starred Van Johnson and June Allyson as childhood friends who get separated when June's family moves away. The story begins in the present (that is, the present then, circa 1943-44) with June and Van now back together again as grown adults. June soon discovers that Van has not followed his dream of becoming a doctor and tries to convince him that he needs to be true to himself or else he will never be happy. Before June succeeds in her mission, although the two find themselves in love, neither can act on it because once again they become separated --- only this time by the ravages of war.
Van, who has now become a Navy pilot, while on patrol in the South Pacific in his PBY 5-A floatplane, is shot down. He and his co-pilot find themselves stranded and drifting without communication and become listed missing in action and presumed dead. Days go by. To pass the time, through a series of flashbacks, Van begins telling stories of his childhood, taking the viewer through his life as a young boy and the close friendship he had with June up until the time she moved away. He talks about his Uncle and various tall tales he used to tell. His uncle, a seafaring man who is now a Navy Captain, told him about a mysterious enchanted and uncharted island that rose up out of the sea that he saw once in his youth, an island called High Barbaree. In his stories he even related to Van the latitude and longitude of the island. The co-pilot charts their position and discovers their location is right on top of the coordinates Van's uncle had given him for the legendary island many, many years ago when Van was just a boy. Before the disabled floatplane is able to drift to the actual location --- 1 Degree North, 160 Degrees East --- the co-pilot dies and Van is left all alone and on the verge of dying himself, adrift at sea having long since run out of food and water. He is eventually located alive and returns to June, but not until after he apparently finds refuge on High Barbaree. Of course when he is finally found --- on his downed PBY --- even though he is no longer dying and in good health, as well as seemingly of sound mind, just like in the ancient Egyptian fable The Shipwrecked Sailor, there is no island or sign of High Barbaree.
THUS ENTERS THE NAVAJO CODE TALKER:
Because of the unusual nature of the story and how it relates to my Merchant Marine Friend being found strapped to a piece of debris in the middle of the ocean still alive weeks, possibly months, after his ship was torpedoed --- and then him giving me the book High Barbaree that alludes to an island that rises up out of the ocean and saves a Navy pilot after weeks of being lost at sea, I told the story to my Uncle. Accompanying us at the table that day, and not at all unusual, was a friend of my uncle, a man known to be a well regarded tribal spritual elder. The elder listened intently to my story and, although not interested in the specifics because much of it was foreign to his culture, the overall theme of the story he liked.
However, a few days later he showed up with a truly elderly man. The spiritual elder had been talking to a group of men about my story when a man stepped forward saying he had been a Code Talker in the south Pacific during World War II and knew about PBYs. This inturn put a truly elderly man in the group into some sort of trance. The truly elderly man told the Code Talker for ME to beware of PBYs. Because of the unusual nature of the warning, PBYs and all, the spiritual elder brought us all together. The truly elderly man was somehow privy to a story that it had been said that I, as a young boy, had been touched by the White Painted Lady (see). Because of such, he felt a connection that otherwise might not have been there. Basically, through translators, because the truly elderly man did not have a full command of the english language, he wanted to know if I had access to a PBY. I told him not only had I never been on one or near one, to my knowledge I did not think I had ever even seen one. The old man slumped back almost as though he had fainted. Within minutes he returned to consciousness. He said that if not me someone from my past, possibly a woman, and if not her someone close to her would be impacted adversely in the use of such a craft. He told me to stay away from such aircraft and ensure that any of my friends that might fit the bill stay away from them as well.
At the time I knew nobody that in anyway would be involved with a PBY, especially so since they were for the most part World War II aircraft on the brink of obsolescence.
One summer, albeit unrelated to any of the above by me at the time, I crewed on a yacht come marlin boat owned by the multi-millionaire David J. Halliburton. On one of the days the boat was in the marina a very little girl who apparently couldn't swim fell off the dock into the water. I jumped in and pulled her to a location along the docks where the skipper I worked for, who was following right behind me, was able to lift her out of the water. In the process a small crowd gathered and in the crowd was a woman from my past that I had not seen in years. The following relates to that incident and is found in context in the final few paragraphs at the very end of Chapter 2 in the source so cited:
"Amongst the crowd was a woman that recognized me, a former Rose Marie Reid swim suit model that I knew as Sullivan, but since married to the son of a renowned ocean explorer. They had a boat in the harbor and since we had not seen each other in years, after everybody was sure the girl was OK, she asked me to join her for drinks on her yacht, get into some dry clothes and get caught up. As I was leaving later in afternoon Sullivan asked if I would be willing to go to a party she was throwing in a couple of weeks. As I slowly strolled away down the dock I halfheartedly turned back and nodded in agreement that I would attend." (source)
Now, I do not recall if the above incident between the former model and myself occurred before or after the warning by the elderly man, but please note that I say the woman in question was married to the "son of a renowned ocean explorer." She and I never had an opportunity to talk or cross paths again after the aforementioned party. However, some years later --- and with me being in absolutely no position to know of such things --- they, in the mid-1970s, bought a PBY. Four years after the purchase her husband was killed piloting the plane during a water landing. For more on the subject, the lady on the dock, et al, please see:
OF COBRAS, SCARABS, MASERATIS, AND ZEN
THE PBY CATALINA FLYING BOAT
WORLD WAR II COMES TO REDONDO
RETURN TO MAIN PAGE
INCIDENT AT SUPAI
AMERICAN STEAM TANKER S.S. HALSEY. TORPEDOED OFF FLORIDA
MAY 6, 1942 BY GERMAN SUB. MY FRIEND WAS ONBOARD WHEN HIT.
Photo courtesy of the Mariners Museum, Newport News VA
P-40 WARHAWK: PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR
THE WANDERLING'S JOURNEY