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8/1/17

AN ISLAND MASQUERADER - Dick Raymond's August Poem

                          AN ISLAND MASQUERADER *
                                 or. Now Don't That Beat the Dutch?


"As we said, sometimes in life, the guy with the so-crazy-it-just-might-work idea  hits one out of the park and saves the day. That is what  happened in 1942 aboard the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen. Ingenuity was the mother of invention."
                                                          – Cherry Hickson, "A Historic Footnote"

                             In 'Forty-two the Meatball swept the seas--
                        All-conquering, the potent Japanese
                        Wiped out the brave but feeble ABDA fleet,
                        Fought to the end, went down to black defeat.
                        The Java Sea was littered with their wrecks,
                        Few Dutchmen had survived to walk the decks--
                        How could a lone minesweeper dodge their fate?
                        How sneak to freedom, through the Sunda Strait?
                        Their ship was lightly armed, one three-inch gun,
                        And speed of fifteen knots—too slow to run.
                        The Crijnssen's doughty skipper polled his crew,
                        Forty-five sailors, salt-tough, through and through--
                       
                        Any ideas, how we might escape?
                        One bold tar answered—we might change her shape,
                        Covered with foliage, moored close to shore,
                        They'd think we were an island, hardly more.
                        Done! Cried the captain, Bos'n, man the boats,
                        Cut down those trees, or anything that floats,
                        Bring 'em aboard, we'll rig from stem to stern,
                        Among these islands, this should serve our turn!
                        And so for days they labored, dark to dawn,
                        Until the ship resembled a green lawn,
                        And enemy flotillas passed them by,
                        They even fooled patrol-planes in the sky!
                        Slowly, in black of night, they stole along,
                        Hearts in their mouths, but ah! their faith was strong,
                        And skillful hands directed the green ghost
                        Until at last they reached Australia's coast.
                       
                        The Aussies goggled--heartily they laughed
                        To see arrive this weird, fantastic craft,
                        But soon enough accepted to their flag—
                        The Hollanders had slipped out of the bag.
                        That war's long past, a many years have flown
                        Since the brave Dutchmen made it on their own,
                        But still the tale is told, how, decked with trees,
                        Abraham Crijnssen skunked the Japanese!
                        7-21-17

* In any major war, with its near-universal death and devastation there is sure to be more than one tale of miraculous escape and survival. For those who doubt the truth of it, here's a photograph of the little minesweeper, in her camouflage. And if there's any kind of lesson or moral in this, it must be, in Churchill's ringing phrase, NEVER GIVE UP!  

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