The island of
Tomman off Malekula, New Hebrides, May 5: Here we came upon the extraordinary
"pig" society of the New Hebrides. A man's wealth depends on the number
of pigs he has, and more specifically, the number of tusker pigs, i.e., those
which have had the two upper front teeth removed so that the two lower front
teeth grow to an abnormal size, often curling around and growing right back
again into the lower jaw. A man's wife, or wives as the case may be, is only as
good as her ability to care for the pigs, making sure that nothing happens to
them before the pig is killed amidst great ceremony and the circular tusks
removed to become a great symbol of wealth.
From Tomman, we
moved over to Pentecost Island to see the Pentecost Manhood rites. The
Pentecost natives prove their manhood by diving toward the ground from towers
constructed of tree branches and vines sometimes 75 feet high. The only thing
that prevents death is a cluster of vines tied around their ankles and attached
to the jumping tower. The vines stop the divers with a tremendous jerk just as
their heads and shoulders are about to touch the earth. All during the six
hours that it took the 28 jumpers to dive, a weird dance and chanting was
carried on by the men and women of the village at the foot of the tower.
Only one diver
balked and finally refused to jump although one small boy, about 8, had to be
pushed off the end of his board.
on Saturday morning, May 29: I was on the morning watch from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.
when Ray Jewell, the ship's cameraman, shook me to say that we were steaming
through "Iron Bottom Bay," with Guadalcanal to port, Florida and Tulagi
off to starboard, and the bowsprit pointing directly at Savo Island.
As we came abeam
of Lunga Point, some of us sat out on the bowsprit with field glasses, scanning
the beaches which are still littered with rusting wrecks of landing craft,
trucks, tanks and barrels. In fact, the whole north coast of the island appears
this way, and as we neared the anchorage at Cape Esperance we could see two
rusting hulks of Jap transports run aground there during a counterinvasion.
Honiara came in sight after we rounded Lunga Point. There was Henderson Field
and many old GI buildings. "Route 50," which runs from Honiara out
toward Lunga Point and which was at one time perhaps the busiest highway in the
world, is now just a single lane of dusty coral. We stopped by the Tenaru
River, scene of some of the bloodiest warfare the world has ever known. All of
this section is now completely covered by second growth. The new trees haven't
gained their full height, but it is impenetrable all the same. Here and there
you can see a blackened, naked tree standing out against the green background,
while some of the surviving coconut trees are dotted with shrapnel holes. The
many flowers, mostly red ginger and a wild yellow flower, make the scenery
quite beautiful, despite the grim feeling you get while traveling through.
We spent quite a
lot of time at Henderson Field. It is now just a huge open area, overgrown with
long yellow grass. Except for a small snake and a swarm of yellow jackets which
inhabit the tower, the whole field—object of months of fighting in 1942-'43, is
New Guinea, June
25: We first dropped anchor at Lae. New Guinea is such an inaccessible
territory that flying is literally the only way to get from one place to
another. A great deal of the interior is still dangerously primitive, and the
job of patrolling this territory is not to be envied. We met one patrol officer
in a remote hill station who told us that only eight months before two of his
fellow officers had been killed by natives way up the Sepik River. The majority
of the natives are very friendly, however, and they greet you by patting you
all over—and I mean ALL over. The women, called marys, are especially strong on
this; but once you get used to it, you no longer shrink back when a mary
approaches you with hands beckoning and cooing ay-yeh!
The most exciting
New Guinea adventure came in a very remote area some 7,000 feet high in the
mountains, where the entire crew witnessed thousands of the not-so-long-ago
cannibalistic New Guinea natives as they celebrated in a gigantic
"sing-sing." The ceremony, the biggest in New Guinea in years, had been
going on for months, and we arrived for the climax—the slaughtering of some
1,500 pigs, carefully raised for years for this event. The sing-sing covered
nine villages, and in each one there was a scene of great confusion, the core
of which was a large group of native men marching and dancing in a confined
area. After lingering in one village for a while, I moved upward to the second
village about 15 minutes away and met most of the crew up there. On the way I
gathered quite an escort of men, women and children, also making their way to
another dancing and celebration center. Dragging that gang along with me, I
felt like a jungle version of the Pied Piper.
That evening a
couple of us climbed the high promontory right behind our camping ground after
supper and watched and listened to New Guinea. We could hear the drums beating
from far distant hills and other celebrating villages; watch the little
flickering lights move up and down the hillsides as natives moved from center
to center for more dancing, and pick out the brighter reddish spots which
marked the feast areas.
The next day we
saw the big pig-killing. In each village the sight was the same—many, many pigs
staked out in the compound—perhaps 60-75 in a village. Some had feathers
attached to their heads, others were decorated with the same bright paints as
their owners displayed, and often we saw a woman comforting an animal she had
raised for years. At 10 a.m., zero hour, two natives, armed with crude hand-cut
clubs of iron wood, advanced on the first pig, helplessly tied to the stake.
The first dealt a blow on the head which usually stunned the animal
sufficiently to down him, but if not, the second man struck with killing force.
As soon as the first pig was dead, more natives advanced on their animals, and
the air was filled with the sound of the blows and intermittent squeals. After
a while you got used to it, but the first two came hard.